Article

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Upholds Safe Auto’s Unlisted Resident Driver Exclusion as Enforceable Under State Law

August 20, 2019
Kyle J. Conway

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently upheld the enforceability of an unlisted resident driver exclusions (URDE) as consistent with the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law as well as overarching public policy considerations. The policy in question was provided by Safe Auto Insurance, and stated that unless a driver who lives with—but is not related to—the policy holder was listed under the insurance policy as an additional insured, they were not covered under the policy. The case, Safe Auto Ins. Co. v. Oriental-Guillermo et. al., involved a car accident in which a policy holder’s live-in girlfriend was driving. The girlfriend was not identified as an additional insured and thus, coverage for the accident was denied under the boyfriend’s car insurance policy.

The Court reiterated that the MVFRL was enacted with the intent to combat rising insurance premium costs and, subsequently, an influx of uninsured motorists. The purpose of the law allows policy holders to opt into lesser protection under the law in order to enjoy lower, more affordable premiums. As such, one requirement of the law is that the policy holder has the responsibility of ensuring that individuals permitted to drive the vehicle are insured through the owner’s policy or their own. The court pointed out that striking exclusions such as the one at issue could allow significant cost-shifting to non-related individuals all seeking insurance coverage through a single resident’s policy, and subsequently raise premiums. Justice Wecht wrote separately, and cautioned against Pennsylvania courts’ noted history with attempting to define the intent behind legislation when interpreting the plain language of those same laws. To his mind, the unambiguous and enforceable language of the MVFRL required that the URDE be enforced and the appeal denied.

If you have questions about this important new decision, or any other aspect of ME’s motor vehicle litigation practice, do not hesitate to contact Kyle Conway at kconway@margolisedelstein.com.