PA Supreme Court Clarifies Availability of Economic Damages For Uninsured Vehicle Owners

February 22, 2012
John A. Livingood, Jr.

In Corbin v. Khosla, decided on February 21, 2012, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court resolved a dispute between state and federal courts on the consequences of owning an uninsured vehicle.  Specifically, the court ruled that owners of an uninsured vehicle are still entitled to recover economic damages (such as wage loss and medical bills) from a tortfeasor, reversing long-standing Superior Court decisions to the contrary.  The Supreme Court held that 75 Pa. C.S.A. §1714 prohibited uninsured vehicle owners only from recovery of first party benefits (such as wage loss and medical payments) from a first party benefits insurance carrier, but did not extend to prohibit recovery of such damages from the tortfeasor.  The court looked at the language of 75 Pa.C.S.A. 1705 which states that the owner of an uninsured vehicle is deemed to have chosen the limited tort option, but later states that a limited tort claimant could still assert and recover a claim for economic damages.  In a concurring opinion, Justice Saylor noted that this decision could leave a tortfeasor in a worse position if plaintiff owned an uninsured vehicle, since the tortfeasor would then become potentially liable for damages that would have been paid by PIP if plaintiff was insured, which would then render the damages inadmissible and unrecoverable against the tortfeasor.  Justice Saylor concluded, however, that the plain language of Section 1714 required its application to first party benefit claims only.
If you have any questions about this important new decision, or any other aspect of Margolis Edelstein’s motor vehicle liability practice, do not hesitate to contact me. 
John A. Livingood, Jr.
Margolis Edelstein
The Curtis Center
170 S. Independence Mall W.”