The Pennsylvania Superior Court protected consumers in a memorandum opinion issued Friday, August 22, 2014, invalidating an underinsured motorist rejection form. The insured, Bricker, filed suit against her insurer, State Farm, arguing that the rejection form she signed did not comply with the statutory requirements of Section 1731 of the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL). For some unknown reason, the form Bricker signed had a policy number on it that did not match the policy number for Bricker’s policy. Bricker signed the form and could offer no explanation as to why she signed forms that did not pertain to her policy. The Court, however, found that it was not Bricker’s burden to prove that the form was invalid; rather, the burden was on State Farm to prove that the form was valid.
The Superior Court noted that the form otherwise complied with Section 1731 of the MVFRL in that it contained the correct language necessary for an insured to reject UIM coverage. The sole issue before the Court was whether the existence of the wrong policy number on the form created an ambiguity in the form and therefore in Bricker’s policy. The Court found that the language of 1731 contained a reference to “this policy,” meaning that the form only pertained to the policy referenced by the form. The Superior Court found that because State Farm could not prove which form the policy pertained to, and the rejection form identified a policy that did not belong to Bricker, Bricker’s rejection of underinsured motorist coverage was ambiguous. The Court construed the ambiguity in favor of the insured, as it was compelled to do, and reformed Bricker’s policy to provide underinsured motorist coverage, in accordance with the mandatory coverage afforded by the MVFRL.
A complete copy of the Court’s opinion can be found here: Bricker v. State Farm Mutual Ins. Co.