ADTA Member John Brown Prevails


ADTA Member John Brown, Ryan, Brown, Berger & Gibbons, P.C., Philadelphia has prevailed on a case that he argued in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court several months ago (the decision and opinion were just released by the Court).  It was a case of first impression in Pennsylvania involving the enforcement of a restrictive clause in an automobile insurance policy and may be of interest to other ADTA members around the U.S. 

It is an important decision in PA that represents a departure from recent rulings from our highest court in PA over the past few years invalidating exclusionary clauses in auto policies and reforming the policies to expand coverage to persons that would have otherwise been excluded by application of the facts involved to the terms of the policy.  In all such recent cases the reformation of the policies allowed those seeking coverage to be indemnified against judgments in favor of  “innocent third parties” involved in accidents with the insured because the PA Supreme Court found that language of the exclusionary clause at issue each time somehow violated the provisions of the PA Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (“MVFRL”).  Although we had prevailed in the declaratory judgment action filed by plaintiffs in both the trial court and the appellate court (on a split 2-1 decision of that panel), when the PA Supreme Court granted allowance of plaintiffs’ appeal from the decision of the court below many people thought it was a harbinger that the Supreme Court was again poised to invalidate yet another exclusionary clause in this auto policy as well.  However, we obtained an unanimous decision from the seven Justices of the Court rejecting all of plaintiffs’ contentions and accepting our arguments that the clause neither violated any provision of the MVFRL nor the ‘public policy’ of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In particular the Justices accepted my argument that plaintiffs could not simply assert an amorphous ‘public policy’ argument based upon undocumented legislative intent and what they believed was best for the well-being of citizens of the Commonwealth but, rather, plaintiffs had to sustain a heavy burden to show that such a public policy has been articulated through existing statutes and case law in order to invalidate the clear terms of a contract.

About ADTA

An ADTA prime membership is, in essence, a statement of the high regard in which defense trial attorneys are held by his or her peers in the defense trial bar of their city and state or province.