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Ruba v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

Superior Court of Delaware, Castle County

November 12, 2013

MARION F. RUBA, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, a foreign corporation, Defendant.

Submitted: October 15, 2013

On Defendant State Farm Automobile Insurance Company's Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment

Gary S. Nitsche, Esquire, Nicholas M. Krayer, Esquire, WEIK, NITSCHE & DOUGHERTY, Attorneys for Plaintiff

Patrick G. Rock, Esquire, HECKLER & FRABIZZIO, Attorney for Defendant

Andrea L. Rocanelli, Judge

This lawsuit arises out of an automobile accident. Plaintiff worked for a medical transport company. At the time of the accident, Plaintiff Marion F. Ruba was riding in the rear of an ambulance being driven by Plaintiff's co-worker. The ambulance, owned by Plaintiff's employer, is registered in Pennsylvania and insured under a Maryland automobile insurance policy. The Maryland policy provided $2, 500 in Personal Injury Protection ("PIP") coverage, less than the amount required by Delaware law. Plaintiff has a personal automobile insurance policy with State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company which provides PIP coverage. State Farm has not paid Plaintiff any PIP benefits because State Farm claims that the "regular use" exclusion on Plaintiff's policy operates to exclude coverage for Plaintiff's injuries.

Defendant has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, which is opposed by Plaintiff. After written submissions by the parties, the Court heard oral argument. This is the Court's decision on the pending Motion for Summary Judgment.

Standard of Review for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file…show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law."[1]Summary judgment can only be granted when there is no material issue of fact. The moving party bears the initial burden of showing that no material issue of fact is present.[2]If the moving party is able to meet this burden, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to demonstrate a material issue of fact.[3] If the non-moving party can show that an issue of material fact is disputed, summary judgment will not be granted.[4] In considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the record in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party.[5]

State Farm's Motion for Summary Judgment

The minimum insurance coverage required on motor vehicles registered in Delaware is set forth in 21 Del. C. §2118(a). In Delaware, insurers are required to provide PIP coverage of $15, 000 for any one person and $30, 000 for all persons injured in one accident.[6] Additionally, this statute requires any motor vehicle operated in this state to carry the same minimum coverage required by Delaware law.[7] Under this provision of the statute, coverage is "applicable to the named insured and members of their households for accidents which occur through being injured by an accident with any motor vehicle other than a Delaware insured motor vehicle while a pedestrian or while occupying any registered motor vehicle other than a Delaware registered insured motor vehicle…"[8] Nevertheless, coverage may be subject to conditions and exclusions that are 1) customary to the field of liability, casualty and property insurance and, 2) not inconsistent with the requirements of 21 Del. C. §2118. If exclusion meets this two-prong test, the Court will uphold it.[9]

1. Regular Use Exclusion

Defendant submits that, under Plaintiff's personal automobile policy, there is no coverage in this case due to an exclusion clause. Defendant points to the following language in the policy:

Insured means: … 2. You or any member of your household while occupying or injured in an accident as a pedestrian by any other land motor vehicle designated for use on public highways and which IS NOT: a. OPERATED ON RAILS OR TRACKS, OR b. OWNED BY OR ...

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