Carter v. Peerless Indemnity Insurance Company, Memorandum Decision, No. 684 EDA 2014 (Pa. Super. February 13, 2015).
Plaintiff Carter was a passenger in a motor vehicle that was involved in an accident. Carter asserted that the negligent driver’s insurance policy was insufficient to cover her damages. She made a claim for underinsured motorist benefits from a Peerless Insurance policy issued to Carter’s mother, Daphne Cox. The Peerless policy did not insure any vehicles involved in the accident. Plaintiff Carter was listed on the Peerless policy as a “driver.”
In the trial court, Peerless moved for summary judgment against Carter arguing that the Peerless policy provided coverage to resident family members, and Carter could not prove that she resided with her mother at the time of the accident. Carter asserted that she was entitled to coverage under the Peerless policy because her designation as a “driver” created a “reasonable expectation” that coverage would be extended to her. The trial court granted the Peerless motion for summary judgment holding that Carter could not prove that she was “insured” under the policy.
Carter appealed to the Pennsylvania Superior Court which affirmed the trial court’s ruling. In the Superior Court appeal, Carter argued that she was, in fact, a resident of her mother’s household at the time of the accident. The Superior Court held that Carter waived this argument because she failed to raise it before the trial court. The Superior Court then addressed Carter’s argument that she had a “reasonable expectation” of coverage under the Peerless policy. The court rejected that argument and noted that the clear and unambiguous language of the policy defined an “insured” as the policy holder or his/her resident family members or persons occupying a covered automobile. Carter failed to establish how her mere designation as a “driver” automatically qualified her as an “insured” under the policy. As the court stated, an insured may not complain that his or her reasonable expectations were frustrated by policy provisions and limitations that are clear and unambiguous.
Accordingly, the Superior Court held that Carter could not raise any genuine issue of material fact as to her entitlement to underinsured motorist benefits and summary judgment was properly entered in favor of Peerless Insurance Company.