X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
A former Ardmore resident is entitled to the full coverage limits of her Pennsylvania insurance policy after suffering injuries in a West Virginia car accident on the same day on which she had told her insurer that she would begin residing in Georgia, the Superior Court has ruled. The car crash occurred during the move to Georgia and on the day on which plaintiff Sylvia Shatz had requested a new policy take effect because of the move, according to the unpublished memorandum opinion in Shatz v. GEICO. “The Shatzes had the intent to make Georgia their domicile and even left Pennsylvania to do so,” the majority wrote, “but the facts do not sustain [GEICO's] contention that they had in factaccomplished this at the time of the accident.” The majority consisted of Senior Judge Peter Paul Olszewski and Judge Robert A. Graci. Senior Judge James R. Cavanaugh filed a dissenting statement. On June 21, 1999, Shatz and her husband, Andrew, notified a GEICO General Insurance Co. representative by telephone that they would move to Georgia on June 29, and wanted to have a Georgia Family Automobile Insurance Policy issued to them by GEICO. The couple wanted the new policy to take effect at 12:01 a.m. on June 29. The Shatzes were traveling through West Virginia on Route I-81 when the accident occurred on June 29 at about 10:20 a.m., said their attorney, Leonard P. Haberman, now of The Trial Lawyer Group in Philadelphia. Haberman was with Clearfield Gaber & Kofsky when he began representation, and was joined by Keith W. Kofsky in the matter. Sylvia was driving her 1996 SUV, while Andrew followed her in a 1998 BMW sedan. As they passed through the town of Martinsburg, W. Va. Haberman said, a driver from the central lane of traffic suddenly pulled into the left-hand lane. Sylvia, who was in the left-hand lane at the time, swerved to avoid that driver, momentarily steering her SUV onto the grass median and then back again onto the road. The sudden veering caused her SUV to flip, and it rolled over three to four times. The driver of the other car did not stop and has never been identified. Haberman said that as a result of the accident, Sylvia slipped into a week-long coma. She also broke three ribs, a collarbone, her left wrist and elbow, two bones in her neck and lost part of her scalp. Her injuries have caused her to experience memory loss and continuing pain in her left arm. The Shatzes had decided to move to Marietta, Ga., after Andrew found a position there as an ophthalmologist. At the time of the accident, Sylvia had recently graduated from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and was in the process of applying to residency programs in Georgia. Haberman said that because of her memory deficits and limited use of her left arm, Sylvia will never become a doctor. According to the opinion, the Shatzes’ Pennsylvania GEICO policy featured a $100,000 policy limit for each of their cars, and they filed a claim for twice that amount pursuant to Pennsylvania’s stacking provisions. GEICO countered that the Shatzes had by the time of the accident already switched to a policy controlled by the laws of Georgia, a state that does not permit stacking. The Shatzes filed suit against GEICO in November 1999 in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court. The trial court, presided over by Judge William J. Manfredi, granted a declaratory judgment motion by the Shatzes asking that their uninsured motorist claim be decided under Pennsylvania law. Haberman said that before the matter proceeded to arbitration, GEICO paid the Shatzes $100,000 under the Georgia policy limits of their claim. During arbitration, GEICO argued that jurisdiction in Pennsylvania was improper. The arbitration panel disagreed, and awarded the Shatzes the second $100,000 they had been seeking. That award was subsequently af-firmed by the trial court, and GEICO appealed to the Superior Court. “If individuals have the intent to change their domicile to one state, but have yet to physically enter that state, they cannot be said to have changed their domicile,” the majority wrote in the memorandum opinion. “In the current case, the Shatzes had not yet reached Georgia, let alone done anything that would suggest the establishment of residency there.” In a footnote, the opinion stated that establishing residency in a certain state would involve activities such as obtaining drivers’ licenses in that state, registering vehicles there and registering to vote. The opinion also noted the trial court’s reliance on the 1996 Supreme Court decision in In Re Nomination Petition of Prendergastin ruling that Shatzbe resolved under Pennsylvania law. In Prendergast, the court blocked the candidacy of Kathleen Prendergast, a Democrat running for the position of state representative from Pennsylvania’s 196th District, because Prendergast’s attendance at law school in Virginia prevented her from having been a Pennsylvania resident for four years prior to the election. The Superior Court majority agreed with the lower court’s estimation that Prendergastsupported the Shatzes’ claim of a Pennsylvania domicile at the time of the accident. GEICO’s attorney in the matter, David M. McCormick, of McCormick & Priore in Philadelphia, did not immediately return calls seeking comment. But in an appeal of Manfredi’s declaratory judgment, McCormick argued that the question of residence in Shatzwas secondary to the plaintiffs’ express request that their Georgia policy take effect as of June 29, 1999. Haberman said that the Shatzes’ Pennsylvania policy contained a provision that the arrangement could not be changed orally, but acknowledged that neither the trial court nor the Superior Court panel noted that issue in their rulings. The panel ultimately held that the issue of domicile was most relevant to the Shatzcase. “Regardless of their intention to change domicile, as expressed by Mrs. Shatz’s June 21st telephone call,” the majority wrote, “their move alone could not have removed them from the Pennsylvania policy until they actually established residence in Georgia.” In his dissenting statement, Cavanaugh argued that the residency change was not pertinent in light of the Shatzes’ intention to have their policies switched on the morning of the day of the accident. (Copies of the seven-page opinion inShatz v. GEICO , PICS NO. 03-1666, are available fromThe Legal Intelligencer . Please call the Pennsylvania Instant Case Serviceat 800-276-PICS to order or for information. Some cases are not available until 1 p.m.)

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.