Underinsured Motor Benefits and Jury Award Not Considered Double Recovery (PA)

The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas recently held that a plaintiff’s receipt of underinsured motorist benefits in addition to a jury award does not constitute double recovery as prohibited under Pennsylvania law.  In DiPaolo v. MacDonald, DiPaolo sued John MacDonald and Abuline Jaidah for two separate rear end car accidents.  The lawsuits were consolidated for trial and DiPaolo was subsequently awarded substantial amounts in each case.  The defendants filed post-trial motions to set aside the awards, but the trial court denied the motions and the defendants appealed.  

On appeal, the Court rejected the defendants’ argument that the trial court erred in failing to modify the verdict in light of DiPaolo’s collection of underinsured motorist benefits for the same accident.  While the defendants failed to cite any legal authority to support their position, the court assumed they were relying on 75 Pa.C.S § 1722 that provides that in an action against an under or uninsured motorist, a person who is eligible for coverage under this section is precluded from recovering the amount of benefits payable under this subchapter.

The coverage referenced in this subchapter pertains to various first-party benefits.  The Court noted that the Superior Court previously examined this same section and determined that while underinsured motorist benefits are occasionally referred to as first-party benefits, such benefits are not listed among those identified first-party benefits and, as such, underinsured motorist benefits are not subject to the prohibition of double recovery.  The Court was therefore not required to offset the damages award by the underinsured motorist benefits. 

Special thanks to Nicole Pedi for her contributions to this post.  For more information, please contact Nicole Brown at nbrown@wcmlaw.com.