Recently, Attorney Richard Golomb represented a man who was wrongfully
denied insurance coverage after being struck by his own car. On May 12,
2003, Midhat Gondi left his car keys in the ignition while he ran into
a West Philadelphia store. As he walked out of the store, he noticed that
a thief was behind the wheel, starting to pull away. Gondi attempted to
stop the thief, but failed. He was struck by his own car, resulting in
a fractured shoulder and several fractured ribs.
When Gondi filed a $500,000 uninsured motorist (UM) claim with his insurance
company, Progressive Insurance Co., he was stunned to discover that his
claim was denied. Lawyers for Progressive Insurance Co. argued that an
exclusion in its policy unambiguously bars UM coverage for any accident
involving a car “owned by” the insured. Fortunately, U.S.
Magistrate Judge Jacob P. Hart found that enforcing such an exclusion
would be unconscionable, and that public policy trumps the plain language
of an insurance policy.
Golomb originally argued that the policy was ambiguous because its definition
of an “uninsured motor vehicle” was inconsistent, but Hart
disagreed. Hart did, however, agree with Golomb’s second argument
that enforcing such an exclusion would be contrary to a clearly expressed
public policy. Golomb cited the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision in
Antanovich v. Allstate Insurance Co., which stated that “a court may constitute itself the voice of the
community in declaring a policy to be against public policy.”