It’s Not An Accident That You’re Sick (PA)

In Mollura v. Aflac Insurance, the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas grappled with determining whether a sickness constitutes an accident under policy language.  In Mollura, a physician, Joseph Mollura, provided health care for the Pennsylvania State Prison System.  Pursuant to his employment, he purchased an accidental injury insurance policy.  Mollura, unfortunately contracted legionella pneumonia from the water source at his job and later died.  Mollura’s widow then sought death benefit payments under the Policy which were denied, and she subsequently commenced a lawsuit seeking those benefits.

The relevant policy language provided that Mollura was only covered for accidents, specifically stating that the Policy “does not pay benefits for loss from sickness.”  The Policy also contained an exclusion for “loss, injury, total disability or death contributed to, caused by, or resulting from…sickness.”  The Policy defined sickness as “any disease or bodily/mental illness or degenerative process.”  In reaching its conclusion, the court looked to case law in Pennsylvania that distinguished between an accident, which was a sudden and unexpected event/occurrence at a particular time, and a sickness, which was always “latent and insidious.”  The Court found that there was a clear distinction between a sickness and an accident.  As such, the Court ruled that the Policy did not provide coverage for Mollura’s contraction of pneumonia and there was no coverage under the Policy.

Thus, this case reveals that, in connection with certain policies, Pennsylvania courts may attempt to draw a distinction between an accident and a sickness.

Thanks to Malik Pickett for his contribution to this post.  Please email Colleen Hayes with any questions.