OCTOBER BAD FAITH CASES INSURER DID NOT ACT IN BAD FAITH BY DENYING INSURED’S CLAIM FOR INJURY, WHICH DID NOT ARISE OUT OF THE USE OF THE VEHICLE (Middle District)

In McCleester v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, Plaintiff’s windshield was struck with a rock while he was driving.  The rock broke through the windshield and hit Plaintiff’s right arm, resulting in serious and permanent injury.  Plaintiff had an automobile insurance policy with State Farm that provided first party wage loss benefits in accordance with the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law.  The terms of Plaintiff’s policy provided that income benefits would be paid “with respect to bodily injury to an insured arising out of the maintenance or use of a motor vehicle.”  The policy did not define “maintenance” or “use.”  Plaintiff made a claim for wage loss benefits, which State Farm denied stating the injury did not arise out of the maintenance or use of a motor vehicle, but instead, was caused by an intervening act committed by a third party.  Plaintiff sued State Farm for bad faith under 42 Pa. C.S.A. §8371.

The focus of the Court’s inquiry was whether the injury arose out of Plaintiff’s use of the vehicle.  The Court held that the vehicle must be more than merely incidental to the injury, and that it must be the instrumentality that caused the injury.  The Court found that Plaintiff’s injuries were not “vehicle-caused, but instead, were the result of the intentional and criminal act of a third-party.” Accordingly, the Court held that State Farm was not required to provide coverage and granted its motion for summary judgment.

Date of Decision: September 30, 2009

McCleester v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania, Civil Action No. 3:CV*08-0010, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 90345 (M.D. Pa. September 30, 2009)(Vanaskie, J.)