Rummel v. Erie Insurance Company & Nelson and Associates
Court of Common Pleas
In Rummel, plaintiff sued the defendant insurance broker Nelson (represented by Lucas and Cavalier, LLC) and its automobile insurer Erie for misrepresentation and violations of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law relating to plaintiff’s purchase of insurance. In 1999, plaintiff’s husband purchased a motorcycle and he purchased motorcycle insurance, via Nelson, with a different insurer. Following a 2001 fatal motorcycle accident, plaintiff, the decedent’s wife, sought to collect underinsured motorist coverage from Erie. Plaintiff’s automobile insurance with Erie was originally purchased via Nelson in the early 1980s and was renewed annually. Erie denied plaintiff’s claim relying on the “family car exclusion” which was added to plaintiff’s policy in 1996. The “family car exclusion” precludes coverage for any vehicle owned by the named insured which is not identified in the declaration page.
In the complaint, plaintiff alleged the broker failed to advise her and the decedent of addition of the “family car exclusion” to their automobile insurance policy and the broker repeatedly advised plaintiff they had the same full coverage as before even though the “family car exclusion” altered coverage. Plaintiff alleged had the insurance broker told her about the “family car exclusion”, they would have purchased additional insurance for the motorcycle. Plaintiff sought recovery of $600,000 plus costs and attorneys’ fees.
Lucas and Cavalier, LLC after the close of discovery, moved for summary judgment on behalf of the broker, Nelson, arguing plaintiff failed to establish proof of a misrepresentation and the insurance broker had no duty to advise of changes made to her insurance policy by her insurer since the insurer sent change notices. In granting the motion for summary judgment, the court found plaintiff had failed to demonstrate the insurance broker made any misrepresentations regarding plaintiff’s coverage under either the automobile or the motorcycle insurance policies. Additionally, the court held the broker did not engage in any deceptive conduct necessary to constitute a violation of the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law. Finally, the court held the insurance broker did not have a duty to disclose the legal consequences of the language found in either the automobile insurance policy or the motorcycle insurance policy.
The Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed the trial court’s granting of Nelson’s motion for summary judgment.