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Pankowski v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

Superior Court of Delaware New Castle

October 10, 2013

James Pankowski, Jr., and Shea Pankowski
v.
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

Submitted: August 5, 2013

On Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

Michael I. Silverman, Esquire Silverman McDonald & Friedman Attorney for Plaintiffs.

Patrick G. Rock, Esquire Heckler & Frabizzio Attorney for Defendant.

Dear Counsel:

I. INTRODUCTION

Defendant automobile insurance company has moved for summary judgment against Plaintiff James Pankowski, Jr.'s uninsured motorist claim.[1] Plaintiff claims that the car in which he was riding rear-ended another vehicle while attempting to pass a third vehicle that has never been identified ("Unknown Phantom Vehicle").

Plaintiff seeks to recover uninsured motorist damages relating to the Unknown Phantom Vehicle from Defendant on a policy after already recovering liability damages under a separate provision of the insurance policy.

The Court must now determine whether a non-duplication clause in the insurance policy limits recovery in the current claim because Defendant paid on the liability portion of the policy. Defendant contends summary judgment is appropriate because the non-duplication clause bars further recovery. Plaintiff in response contends summary judgment is inappropriate because he has asserted two separate recoverable claims. He argues that the non-duplication clause is "likely void" under Delaware law insofar as it purports to bar his uninsured motorist claim.

The Court concludes that the non-duplication clause does not bar Plaintiff's uninsured motorist claim. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is therefore DENIED.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The parties agree that there are no genuine issues of material fact insofar as the interpretation of the insurance policy is concerned.

This motion stems from a motor vehicle accident on August 15, 2008 involving vehicles driven by Edward Doud ("Doud"), Michael Mariano ("Mariano"), and an alleged Unknown Phantom Vehicle. James Pankowski, Jr. ("Plaintiff") was a passenger in the car driven by Doud which was owned and insured by Plaintiff's wife, Shea Pankowski ("Ms. Pankowski"). Doud, who later pled guilty to driving under the influence stemming from the accident, [2] rear-ended Mariano in an accident that caused injuries to Plaintiff. Plaintiff asserts that he is personally unaware of the circumstances that caused the accident because he was leaning back in the passenger seat with his eyes closed.[3] Mariano stated that no other vehicles were in the vicinity of the accident.[4] Doud has asserted, however, that the accident was caused by his attempt to avoid colliding with an Unknown Phantom Vehicle.[5] Defendant argues that no competent evidence supports that factual assertion.

Plaintiff seeks to recover damages pursuant to the alleged involvement of the Unknown Phantom Vehicle from State Farm ("Defendant"), Ms. Pankowski's insurance company, after already recovering payment of the policy limits for a liability claim against Doud. The ...


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