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Allstate Insurance Co. v. Altman

Decided: December 10, 1984.

ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SONDRA ALTMAN & ROBERT ALTMAN, DEFENDANTS



Davis, J.s.c.

Davis

Allstate Insurance Company (Allstate), the plaintiff herein, has filed a motion for summary judgment seeking a declaration from this court that the filing of a demand for arbitration by Sondra and Robert Altman (Altman), defendants herein, is time-barred by the six-year period of limitation. Before this issue can be addressed, it is necessary to review the terms of the insureds' contract to determine whether the definition of an uninsured vehicle is consistent with our legislative and judicial policy.

I

The Altmans, who resided in New Jersey, were involved in a vehicular accident in Philadelphia, Pa., on January 17, 1972 with a cab owned by Yellow Cab Company of Pennsylvania (Yellow Cab). At the time of the accident, Yellow Cab was self-insured and the Altmans were insured by Allstate. Its policy had the normal uninsured motorists provision. The complaint for personal injuries was timely filed in the Pennsylvania state court; however, the litigation was terminated because Yellow Cab, which subsequently filed a petition in bankruptcy, was declared bankrupt in 1981.

On October 13, 1981, the Altmans instituted arbitration proceedings under the uninsured motorists provisions of the policy. Allstate refused to arbitrate. In May 1983, the Altmans filed a demand for arbitration with the American Arbitration Association. This matter was transferred to New Jersey with the consent of both counsel. The declaratory judgment matter was filed on August 29, 1983.

That portion of the insured's policy which sets forth the general definition of an uninsured vehicle reads as follows:

"uninsured highway vehicle" means:

(a) a highway vehicle . . . with respect to which there is a bodily injury and property damage liability bond or insurance policy applicable at the time of the accident but the company writing the same denies coverage thereunder or is or becomes insolvent; (emphasis supplied) or

(b) "uninsured highway vehicle" shall not include:

(ii) a highway vehicle which is owned or operated by a self-insurer within the meaning of any motor vehicle financial responsibility law, motor carrier law or similar law, . . . .

There is no dispute between the parties that Yellow Cab was self-insured under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and no dispute that it was declared bankrupt before the personal injury action could be resolved. Allstate, however, insists that it should not be liable under its policy because a policy, as such, for Yellow Cab had not been written, and accordingly, there was not a denial of coverage under a policy as these terms are expressed in subparagraph (a) of the policy, supra.

Inferentially, Allstate also argues that even if this court were to conclude that a self-insurer's certificate is equivalent to the issuance of a policy of insurance, even though issued in Pennsylvania under a different philosophy, this court should not on these facts declare that coverage exists. The carrier, by argument, simply states that the policy language of paragraph (b) ...


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