Trial Court holds that Limited Tort Passenger Is Full Tort While In Full Tort Vehicle

Edgington v. Abersold, C.P. Lawrence County, No. 10570 of 2012, C.A. (C.C.P. September 24, 2014) Piccione, J.

In Edgington v. Abersold, a Lawrence County Common Pleas Court found that a passenger injured in a motor vehicle accident was permitted to use the host vehicle’s full tort coverage even though she was an insured on her husband’s limited tort policy. The Trial Court held that she was full tort because she was in the accident while a passenger in the full tort car.  The Court noted that the Plaintiff passenger did not have a driver’s license and did not own her own vehicle.

At the time of the accident, Plaintiff passenger was an insured under her household’s limited tort policy.  Plaintiff alleges she was seriously injured while being a passenger in a vehicle that was operated by her mother which was insured under a full tort policy.  Defendant admitted negligence, but filed a Motion for Summary Judgment claiming that she was bound by her husband’s limited tort policy.

The Court disagreed with the Defendant and found the Plaintiff to be full tort.  The Court relied on 75 Pa. C.S.A §1705(b) which provided: “In the case where more than one private passenger motor vehicle policy is applicable to an insured and the policies have conflicting tort options the insured is bound by the tort option of the policy associated with the private passenger motor vehicle in which the insured is an occupant at the time of the accident if he is an insured on that policy and bound by the full tort option otherwise.”

In this case, as a passenger in the vehicle, the Court found that the Plaintiff was an “insured” under her mother’s policy and therefore denied Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment.  The Court held that Plaintiff is permitted to recover full tort benefits under her mother’s election of full tort benefits due to being in that vehicle at the time of the incident. The court noted that “because there are two applicable policies with conflicting tort options, the solution is to apply the tort option covering the vehicle in which the party was injured so long as that person is an ‘insured’ under the policy.”

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