Last year, the Superior Court rejected an attempt by a Plaintiff to expand the class of claimants eligible to “stack” UM/UIM benefits under an auto insurance policy pursuant to 75 Pa. C.S.A. §§ 1738.

In Grix v. Progressive Specialty Ins. Co., No. 312 MDA 2019, 2020 WL 6185 (Feb. 10, 2020 Pa. Super.)(Non-precedential), the claimant was killed while a passenger in a vehicle owned and insured by her parents. At the time of the accident, the claimant was listed as a household driver on her parents’ insurance policy despite the fact that, forty-four days prior to the accident, she executed a rental lease agreement for an apartment with her boyfriend. No notice of the lease or Plaintiff’s residency change was provided to the insurer prior to the date of loss.

After resolving the tort claim with the adverse driver, the claimant’s estate made a claim for underinsured motorist benefits under her parents’ policy. The insurer tendered the “unstacked” UIM limits, but denied that the claimant was eligible to “stack” UIM benefits under the policy pursuant to 75 Pa. C.S.A. §§ 1738 because she was not a named insured or resident relative of a named insured under the policy and thus was not a “class one insured” eligible for “stacking.”

The Plaintiff filed suit seeking a Court declaration that she qualified as a resident of her parents’ home under the policy on the date of loss or, alternatively, that her being listed by name as a “household driver” on the policy qualifies her as an eligible claimant for “stacked” benefits.

The Superior Court rejected both arguments. Focusing on the fact that the claimant spent each night in her rented apartment, the Court found that her actual residence on the date of loss was her apartment and not her parents’ home. The mere receipt of mail and remaining personal belongings at the parents’ home did not change this analysis. The Court also rejected a claim that the mere listing of a driver on a policy creates “class one insured” status that would allow recovery of “stacked” benefits. The Court explained that “class one insureds” are the specifically intended beneficiaries of insurance contracts, and can reasonably expect stacked coverage, while “class two” claimants are not specifically intended beneficiaries of an insurance policy, and cannot reasonably expect stacked coverage. While the claimant was an insured under the policy, she was not listed as a named or designated insured on the declarations and was not a resident relative of the individuals that were. No additional claimants are eligible for “stacked” UIM benefits because they do not satisfy the eligibility requirements for “class one insured” status.

The Grix decision was initially appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. However, the appeal was recently discontinued. As such, the Superior Court’s previous decision, albeit issued as a non-precedential memorandum opinion, remains good law and once again re-enforces the standards limiting recovery of “stacked” UIM benefits to only named insureds and their resident relatives.

The Grix decision can be found here.

For additional questions, please contact Glen Shikunov, Esq. and/or Scott Tredwell, Esq..

This article was prepared by McCormick & Priore, P.C. to provide information on recent legal developments of interest to our readers. This publication is in no way intended to provide legal advice or to create an attorney-client relationship. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted without the express written permission of McCormick & Priore, P.C.