Judge Dismisses Penn. Widow’s Car Insurance-Related Lawsuit

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed against a Pennsylvania township by the widow of a police officer killed by an underinsured driver.

Middletown police Officer Chris Jones was killed during a traffic stop in January 2009 by an intoxicated driver who was later convicted and sentenced to prison.

Jones’ widow, Suzanne Jones, sued Middletown, claiming the township had lowered its underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) from $1 million to $35,000 without informing her husband.

UIM policies are meant to protect consumers in the event they get into an accident caused by a driver who has low liability limits that are not enough to pay for all injuries or damages.

An estimated 7 percent of Pennsylvania motorists were uninsured in 2009, according to the Insurance Research Council. It is not known precisely how many motorists do not have sufficient Pennsylvania auto insurance to cover the costs of a major accident.

Jones—who sought $450,000 in damages, according to The Associated Press—had claimed that her husband’s constitutional rights were violated and his union contract breached because he was not informed of the reduction, which had taken place earlier that year.

Because Officer Jones was not notified, his widow contended, he was denied the chance to buy supplemental coverage to protect him and his family from a catastrophic accident.
U.S. District Court Judge Joel Slomsky dismissed the suit, ruling that the township had the right to reduce coverage benefits.

“There could be no expectation of a continuation in coverage from agreement to agreement,” Slomsky wrote in his opinion.

Suzanne Jones has received a $130,000 life insurance policy and will continue to get her husband’s $75,000 annual salary and family medical benefits unless she remarries, according to AP.

Local media outlets have reported that Middletown has since increased its UIM coverage to the original level of $1 million.

About Gregor McGavin
Gregor McGavin is an award-winning journalist who has reported across the country for such publications as The Associated Press, the Arizona Republic, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and the Press-Enterprise.

No comments yet.

Comment on this article