Household Exclusion Does Not Apply to Partner After Motorcycle Accident

Posted on: June 29th, 2012       Attorney Thomas Newell

A 2007 ruling by the Superior Court of PA reinstated a Pennsylvania motorcycle accident victim’s claim for additional underinsured motorist benefits. The motorcycle owner was a partner in a business operating a machine shop. He personally owned a Harley-Davidson which he would sometimes use to make customer calls for the partnership. The business purchased a commercial insurance policy, including automobile insurance, from Continental Casualty Company. Two vehicles specifically owned by the partnership were the only listed motor vehicles on the auto policy.

The Harley rider was struck by a car and sustained significant injuries. He received the policy limit from the Defendant car driver, as well as the UIM policy limit from the Harley Davidson insurance policy. His Pennsylvania motorcycle accident lawyer then sued Continental to obtain its UIM policy limit. The Lawrence County Court of Common Pleas Judge granted the insurance company’s Motion for Summary Judgment. The Trial Judge ruled that since the Harley Davidson motorcycle was not specifically listed as a covered vehicle under the commercial policy, the household exclusion prevented the UIM recovery.

The Appeals Court found that since the insurance contract covered the partnership, the term “named insured” would also apply to the Plaintiff who was one of the 2 owners of the partnership. Any ambiguity in the insurance contract language would be interpreted against the drafter of the insurance contract. The Harley rider testified that he expected the commercial policy to cover both him and his partner when they used their personal vehicles on behalf of the partnership. The case was remanded for an evidentiary hearing to take testimony as to whether the personal injury victim was on partnership business while riding his Harley at the time of the crash. Continental Casualty Co. v Pro Machine, et al., 916 A.2d 1111 (Pa. Super. 2007)