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December 21, 2008

Receipt of Private Disability Benefits and UIM Benefits does not constitute double recovery under MVFRL

The Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL) was enacted to contain the rising costs of automobile insurance. Cases interpreting §1722 of the MVFRL have held that outside of some narrow exceptions, generally, a plaintiff cannot plead and recover medical expenses, wage loss and other benefits paid or payable by another source. Most notably, the MVFRL is preempted by any benefits that fall under a federal ERISA plan. However, specifically excluded from ERISA are private insurance policies, which are regulated under Pennsylvania law.

In Tannenbaum v. Nationwide Insurance, the carrier filed a Motion in Limine to preclude Tannenbaum in an underinsured motorist (UIM) arbitration from introducing evidence of amounts paid or payable by his private disability insurance policies. The motion was granted by the arbitration panel and Tannenbaum filed a petition to vacate the arbitrator’s award which was granted. An appeal to the Superior Court followed.

The Superior Court held that the private disability policies were separate and apart from UIM coverage, paid for exclusively by the claimant either directly or through deductions from his wages. Therefore the payments received from the policies did not duplicate benefits under the MVFRL as they were fundamentally different from those benefits. 

What It Means to You

The Superior Court has basically judicially repealed §1722 of the MVFRL, a section enacted to prevent double recovery as a cost containing measure. However, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has granted Nationwide’s Petition for Allowance of Appeal on this issue but has not yet rendered a decision. C&W attorneys are always available to discuss the most relevent court decisions in Pennsylvania and New Jersey
 

Sources

Tannenbaum v. Nationwide Insurance Company, 919 A.2d 267 (Pa.Super. 2007)