In post-Koken auto cases, questions exist regarding joinder of tort and UIM claims, as well as the appropriate venue for the litigation of such matters. In Orsulak v. Penn National Mutual Casualty Insurance Company, No. 12255-2010 (Luzerne 2011), Judge Joseph Van Jura addressed these issues in connection with the presentation of a Motion for Coordination/Petition to Transfer Venue. The decision of Judge Van Jura points out many of the issues which arise in these post-Koken auto cases.
In Orsulak, the plaintiffs were involved in a motor vehicle accident occurring in Monroe County. The plaintiffs filed suit seeking recovery of damages in tort by Writ of Summons in Monroe County. The insurer for the tortfeasor tendered its $25,000.00 liability limit of coverage. Penn National Mutual Casualty Insurance Company, the UIM insurer for the plaintiffs, exercised its rights under Daly-Sand and tendered its check to the plaintiff in order to preserve subrogation rights. Prior to instituting the Monroe County action, the plaintiffs had filed suit in the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County against Penn Mutual Casualty Insurance Company seeking recovery of contractual underinsured motorist benefits and extra-contractual bad faith damages. Penn National Mutual Casualty Company then filed a Motion to Coordinate and Transfer in the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County with respect to the contractual and extra-contractual claims.
The Motion to Coordinate and Transfer was filed pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 213.1. That rule permits the coordination of actions in different Counties which arise from the same transaction or occurrence. Rule 213.1(c) sets forth the specific factors to be considered in determining coordination and location for the coordinated proceedings, as follows:
- Whether the common question of law or fact predominate;
- The convenience of the parties, witnesses and counsel;
- Whether coordination will result in unreasonable delay, expense or prejudice of a party;
- The efficient utilization of judicial facilities and personnel;
- The disadvantage of duplicative and inconsistent rulings, orders or judgments;
- The likelihood of settlement of the actions without further litigation should coordination be denied.
Pa.R.C.P. 213.1(c). In analyzing these factors, Judge Van Jura decided that coordination was, in fact, appropriate. As such, the action instituted by the plaintiffs against Penn National Mutual Casualty Insurance Company in Luzerne County was transferred to the Court of Common Pleas of Monroe County for coordination with the tort action. The decision of Judge Van Jura demonstrates the application of coordination proceedings in tort and UIM claims in the post-Koken setting. For a copy of Judge Van Jura’s decision, please click here