Pennsylvania Record

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Judge: Summary judgment not possible before class certification in USAA insurance dispute

Federal Court

By William Sassani | Oct 2, 2019

Judge Mitchell S. Goldberg

PHILADELPHIA – U.S. District Court Judge Mitchell S. Goldberg on Sept. 16 ruled in favor of USAA Casualty Insurance and against Susan J. Koehler in her bid for a partial summary judgment in an insurance dispute.

In the 15-page ruling, Goldberg said Koehler, who is an executrix for the estate of her husband, Phillip J. Koehler, Jr., cannot have a partial summary judgment before class certification has occurred. He wrote that “it would be inappropriate to decide Plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment – over Defendant’s objection – before deciding whether to certify a class.”

Koehler’s husband died in 2015 from injuries he suffered in a motorcycle crash. She filed a claim with Encompass, the insurer of the driver responsible for the crash, as well as Progressive, which had been the insurer for Koehler’s motorcycle. Both were successful claims that resulted in payment per the limit of each policy.

Koehler then filed a claim with USAA, which had issued what’s called “stacked” insurance coverage for three other vehicles owned by the Koehlers. This policy did not cover the motorcycle. Yet, under Pennsylvania law, when someone has stacked insurance, he or she can file a claim for the “sum of the limits for each motor vehicle (italics original) as to which the injured person is an insured,” even if the vehicle in question is not part of the stacked policy.

USAA argued that in its policy there was what’s called a “household exclusion” clause that said USAA was not responsible for claims for injuries resulting in the use of a motor vehicle by Koehler or another family member that was not covered by the insurance policy. However, in January 2019, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled a household exclusion policy in another lawsuit was invalid. 

Koehler filed a punitive class action lawsuit in the Philadelphia Court of Common Please that USAA removed to U.S. District Court.

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