Toth v. Donegal Mut. Ins. Co., 964 A.2d 413 (Pa. Super. 2009)

The insured bears the burden of proving that her signature on a UIM rejection form was a forgery.

Darla and John Toth were the named insureds on a personal automobile liability insurance policy and, prior to April of 1997, their policy provided both insureds with underinsured motorist protection. In April of 1997, John Toth signed both his and his wife's names to a UIM coverage rejection form in an effort to apply new coverage which would reduce premium payments. The Toths continued to pay premiums for their coverage. On January 10, 2001, Darla Toth was involved in an automobile accident whereby she suffered injuries. After recovering proceeds from the liability insurance policy of the other party involved in the accident, she sought UIM benefits from her insurer, putting forth the argument that the UIM rejection form that her husband signed her name to was invalid. The trial court ruled that the form that John Toth signed rejecting UIM coverage was void because it was not signed by the insured, Darla Toth. Because the form was not written in her own handwriting, the form was void as a matter of law. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania reversed the trial court's decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Superior Court ruled that the burden was not on the defendant insurer to prove the authenticity of a named insured's signature on such a form and that requiring an investigation into signatures on such forms every time an insurer received a UIM rejection form was not required. The court remanded the matter, ruling the rejection form was valid unless Darla Toth proved that her signature on the UIM rejection form was a forgery, that the signature was placed on the form without her consent, and that she did not willingly waive UIM coverage.

Case Law Alert - 1st Qtr 2010