December 2016 Bad Faith Cases: Contractual Choice of Venue Provision Does Not Apply To Bad Faith Claims (Superior Court of Pennsylvania) (Not Precedential)

In a 2 to 1 unpublished decision, the Superior Court ruled that a choice of venue provision did not apply to the insured’s bad faith claims. This was a UIM case. The majority found that bad faith claims are distinct from breach of contract/UIM claims, and therefore the insurance contract’s venue provisions did not apply to these distinct claims. The minority (and trial court) would have ruled otherwise, in the belief that the bad faith claim rises and falls with the UIM claim, and thus is so closely related as to be bound by the contractual venue provision.

The majority cited the Superior Court’s 1999 Adamski decision, which held “that bad faith claims are ‘neither related to nor dependent on the underlying contract claim against the insurer[,]’ and an insured is “not required to wait until the merits of the contract claim [are] decided to file suit for bad faith.’” It also cited the earlier March v. Paradise Mut. Ins. Co., for the proposition “that bad faith ‘claims under section 8371 are separate and distinct causes of action and [] the language of section 8371 does not indicate that success on the contract claim is a prerequisite to success on the bad faith claim’”.

The majority and dissent bring out the ongoing issue of whether section 8371 bad faith can exist if there is no denial of a contractual benefit (see pages 5-7 of this 2005 article link for an older discussion of that issue); and the effect of the Supreme Court’s decision in Toy v. Metropolitan Life on Superior Court and federal decisions both before and after 2007.

Date of Decision: October 20, 2016

Cid v. Erie Ins. Grp., No. 3041 EDA 2015, 2016 Pa. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 3824 (Pa. Super. Ct. Oct. 20, 2016) (Dubow and Ford Elliott, JJ.) (not precedential)