Cumberland County Court Judge Edgar B. Bayley upheld the constitutionally of Pennsylvania's Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law in a decision denying first party and uninsured motorist benefits to a woman whose registered car was not insured, although she was seeking insurance payments for injuries while a passenger in another vehicle.
Teresa J. Mowery, of West Pennsboro Twp., claimed the state law was unconstitutional because it bars payments to owners of registered vehicles that are not insured.According to the suit, filed against the Prudential Property & Casualty Insurance Co., which had denied her claim for lost wages and medical bills, Ms. Mowery was injured in a March 1986 accident while a passenger in a car driven by a Carlisle man. At the time, she owned a registered but uninsured car that was not involved in the accident.
Hubert X. Gilroy, attorney for the plaintiff, claimed the state law violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by denying his client ''equal protection of the law." He argued that the financial responsibility law was designed to bar insurance payments only to owners of uninsured vehicles whose cars are involved in accidents.
However, Judge Bayley ruled that the law is constitutional because it doesn't limit Ms. Mowery's access to the courts in seeking a settlement of her claim.
"Her desire to obtain benefits from an insurance system in which she has chosen not to participate cannot be equated with the right to access to the courts," the judge said.
He also said the state's system of having vehicle registration trigger whether insurance is mandatory is "virtually foolproof" for determining compliance with the insurance law.