What does your insurance policy require you to do in order to make a claim for uninsured or underinsured motorist benefits if you have been injured in a car wreck or car accident? Does your policy allow you to ask for arbitration or are you required to file a lawsuit against the company. In Pennsylvania, most insurnace policies now require an insured to file a lawsuit. Then an issue arises as to where the case must be filed.
The Western District of Pennsylvania in Shafer v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., NO. 3:11-CV-174 (W.D. Pa. Feb. 8, 2012) recently addressed a jurisdiction issue involving a Pennsylvania car accident. The case involves a lawsuit filed over State Farm’s failing to pay underinsured motorist benefits after a minor was injured in a car accident. The case was originally filed in state court in Bedford County and then State Farm removed the case based upon diversity jurisdiction. The insured filed a Motion to Remand by arguing that the State Farm insurance contract contained a forum selection clause which was worded in such a way as to waive the right to remove.
The language in the State Farm policy stated that any disputes over underinsured motorist claims need to be resolved by filing a lawsuit in “a state or federal court that has jurisdiction”.
The insured argued that the clause is a forum selection clause which allowed a case to be filed in either state or federal court and could not be removed since the case was already filed in state court.
The District Court relies mainly on Craker v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., NO. 11-0225 (W.D. Pa. May 2, 2011) and finds that the clause is not a forum selection clause but rather explains that lawsuits are “the means by which certain disputes will be resolved.” The provision is interpreted to refer not to “where” a lawsuit must be filed but “that” a lawsuit must be filed. Therefore, the Court denies the Motion to Remand and finds that the right to remove has not been waived. For a copy of the Court’s opinion please contact Scott Cooper at SchmidtKramer Injury lawyers in Harrisburg.
Scott B. Cooper
Schmidt Kramer PC
209 State Street
Harrisburg, PA 17101
(717) 232-6300 – Telephone
(717) 232-6467 – Facsimile