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State of Delaware Insurance Coverage office v. Choudry

Superior Court of Delaware

July 24, 2013

State of Delaware Insurance Coverage Office, Appellant,
v.
Rabrinda Choudry and Debjani Choudry, Appellees

Submitted: June 26, 2013

On Appeal from a Decision of the Court of Common Pleas.

Marc P. Niedzielski, Esq. Deputy Attorney General State of Delaware Department of Justice Attorney for Appellant,

Joel H. Fredericks, Esq. Casarino Christman Shalk Ransom & Doss, P.A. Attorney for Appellees.

Dear Counsel:

INTRODUCTION

A familiar tenet of statutory construction holds that an unambiguous statute will be construed according to its plain meaning. This is the approach that must be taken with respect to 21 Del. C. § 2118. For the reasons stated below, it is the finding of this Court that the State of Delaware Insurance Coverage Office is not a self insured entity for the limited purposes of 21 Del. C. § 2118. It is therefore not required to initially proceed in arbitration, and may file a claim in the Justice of the Peace Court or any other court of competent jurisdiction.

The opinion of the Court of Common Pleas dated August 1, 2012 is hereby REVERSED, and the matter is REMANDED for proceedings consistent with this Order.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

The facts in this matter are generally not in dispute. In August of 2009, [1] a collision occurred between a marked Delaware State Police cruiser operated by Trooper Michael Cahall and a car operated by Rabrinda Choudry[2] and owned by his mother, Debjani Choudry.[3] Both vehicles sustained damage.[4]

PROCEDURAL POSTURE

The ICO filed its initial claim against the Choudrys in arbitration with the Insurance Commissioner.[5] The Insurance Commissioner Panel denied recovery on September 16, 2010, and the ICO appealed to the Superior Court on October 13, 2010.[6] On April 13, 2011, a stipulation of dismissal without prejudice was filed, and on June 6, 2011, Appellants filed a trespass complaint in the Justice of the Peace Court No. 13.[7] On December 13, 2011, the Justice of the Peace Court found in favor of the ICO; the Defendants then filed an appeal with the Court of Common Pleas.[8] On August 1, 2012, the Court of Common Pleas issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order, holding that because it found the ICO to be governed by the scope of Section 2118(g), both the Justice of the Peace Court and the Court of Common Pleas lacked jurisdiction in the matter, and that ICO's claim should have been initially pursued through arbitration.[9] The Court of Common Pleas accordingly vacated the decision of the Justice of the Peace Court. On August 7, 2012, Appellant filed the instant appeal.[10]

PARTIES' CONTENTIONS

Appellant makes the following arguments in support ...

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