PA UIM Victim Must Liltigate Separately vs. Driver and Her Carrier

Posted on: June 26th, 2012       Attorney Thomas Newell

On July 14, 2010, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania denied re-argument and let stand its May 14, 2010 decision that required separate verdicts for an injured PA car wreck victim.  A woman was rear-ended by a negligent driver in Beaver County PA.  Both drivers were insured by State Farm.  The defendant had a $50,000.00 liability policy, while the car crash victim had $50,000.00 in PA underinsured motorist coverage.

Litigation filed versus the defendant driver was temporarily put on hold while the UIM claim was litigated versus State Farm.  The arbitrators awarded the underinsured motorist claim victim a total of $100,000.00.  After the woman collected her $50,000.00 in UIM coverage, her Pennsylvania underinsured motorist lawyer filed a Motion for Summary Judgment with the trial court.  He argued that the legal doctrine of collateral estoppel prevented the defendant and State Farm from challenging a $50,000.00 judgment versus the tortfeasor.

The Trial Court agreed and ordered that State Farm pay its $50,000.00 liability policy limit.  Since the defendant driver was not a party to the UIM litigation, her individual interests were not protected.  Her lack of privity meant that the UIM arbitration result was not binding upon her.  The car crash victim is now required to proceed to trial against the defendant.  Catroppa v. Carlton, 998 A.2d 643 (Pa. Super. 2010)

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