Travelers Ins. Co. v. Benton, 17

Decision Date29 November 1976
Docket NumberNo. 17,17
Citation365 A.2d 1000,278 Md. 542
PartiesThe TRAVELERS INSURANCE COMPANY v. Elizabeth Ann BENTON.
CourtMaryland Court of Appeals

David M. Buffington, Baltimore (Pamela P. Wassman and Semmes, Bowen & Semmes, Baltimore, on the brief), for appellant.

Gilbert A. Hoffman, Baltimore, for appellee.

Argued before MURPHY, C. J., and SINGLEY, SMITH, DIGGES, LEVINE and ORTH, JJ.

MURPHY, Chief Judge.

We granted certiorari in this case to consider the proper application of provisions contained in a Personal Injury Protection Endorsement (the PIP endorsement) to a policy of automobile liability insurance issued by appellant Travelers Insurance Company (Travelers) to the appellee Elizabeth Ann Benton, pursuant to the requirements of Maryland Code (1957, 1972 Repl. Vol., 1976 Cum.Supp.) Art. 48A, § 539.

Section 539 provides that no policy of motor vehicle liability insurance may be issued after January 1, 1973 unless it affords minimum medical, hospital, disability and loss of income benefits up to $2,500 (the PIP coverage) for the named insured and for other designated individuals injured as a result of a motor vehicle accident. Section 540 provides that the benefits required under § 539 shall be payable without regard to fault. Section 543 entitled 'Duplication of benefits; coordination of benefits' provides in subsection (a) that no person shall recover PIP benefits from more than one motor vehicle liability policy or insurer 'on either a duplicative or supplemental basis.' Section 543(b) provides, with respect to a person injured in an accident while occupying a motor vehicle for which PIP coverage is 'in effect,' that the PIP benefits 'shall be payable by the insurer of the motor vehicle.' Section 543(c) provides, with respect to a person insured under a policy providing PIP coverage who is injured in an accident while occupying a motor vehicle for which such coverage 'is not in effect,' that the PIP benefits 'shall be payable by the injured party's insurer providing such coverage.'

Appellee Benton was riding as a passenger in an automobile owned and operated by Henry Leland on April 29, 1973 when the vehicle struck a bridge abutment. Benton sustained personal injuries, incurred medical expenses and lost time from work. Leland was insured under a policy of automobile liability insurance issued by Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund (MAIF) with the required PIP coverage in the amount of $2,500. Benton made claim for PIP benefits against MAIF and received the policy limits of $2,500.

At the time of the accident Benton was the named insured under an automobile liability policy issued by Travelers, which contained the required PIP coverage to the extent of $2,500. She had no separate coverage for medical payments under the provisions of that policy. Benton's total medical expenses and lost earnings exceeded $5,000. After receiving the $2,500 PIP benefits from MAIF, Benton sued Travelers in the District Court of Maryland for breach of contract to recover PIP benefits which she claimed were due under her Travelers' policy. The District Court rendered judgment in her favor against Travelers for $2,500. On appeal to the Baltimore City Court, the judgment was affirmed. We granted certiorari pursuant to Code (1974, 1976 Cum.Supp.) Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, § 12-305.

Travelers contends that, consistent with the provisions of § 543, the PIP endorsement to its policy issued to Benton excluded coverage for PIP benefits in the circumstances of this case. Specifically, Travelers argues that the policy issued to Benton expressly excluded PIP coverage for the named insured while occupying a nonowned vehicle on which PIP coverage exists under another policy, and that it also provided that a claimant may not recover PIP benefits from more than one motor vehicle liability insurance policy. Travelers relies on the following provisions contained in its PIP endorsement. Under the heading 'Exclusions' it is stated that the insurance does not apply 'to bodily injury sustained by any person while occupying . . . any motor vehicle, other than an insured motor vehicle, for which the coverage reqired under Section 539 of Article 48A of the . . . Code . . . is in effect.' Under the heading 'Limits of Liability' for payment of PIP benefits, it is provided: 'No person may recover benefits as prescribed by law and afforded under this insurance from more than one motor vehicle liability insurance policy on either a duplicative or supplemental basis.'

We said in Maryland Auto Ins. Fund v. Stith, 277 Md. 595, 356 A.2d 272 (1976), that where there is no ambiguity or obscurity in the language of a statute, there is usually no need to look elsewhere to ascertain the intent of the legislature. Of course, where statutory language is plain and free from ambiguity and expresses a definite and sensible meaning, courts are not at liberty to disregard the natural import of words with a view toward making the statute express an intention which is different from its plain meaning. Purifoy v. Merc.-Safe Dep, & Trust, 273 Md. 58, 327 A.2d 483 (1974).

Similar principles of construction are applicable in construing provisions of an insurance policy. We said in Watson v. U....

To continue reading

Request your trial
32 cases
  • Pacific Indem. Co. v. Interstate Fire & Cas. Co.
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • September 1, 1984
    ...289 Md. 379, 424 A.2d 765 (1981); National Grange Mut. Ins. Co. v. Pinkney, 284 Md. 694, 399 A.2d 877 (1979); Travelers Ins. Co. v. Benton, 278 Md. 542, 365 A.2d 1000 (1976). To determine the intention of the parties to the insurance contract, which is the point of the whole analysis, we co......
  • Van Horn v. Atlantic Mut. Ins. Co.
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • September 1, 1990
    ...motor vehicle accident" (Art. 48A, §§ 539(b), 540). 5 As Chief Judge Murphy pointed out for the Court in Travelers Ins. Co. v. Benton, 278 Md. 542, 545, 365 A.2d 1000, 1003 (1976), "[t]he statutory plan making PIP coverage mandatory on a 'no-fault basis' plainly requires that all motor vehi......
  • Empire Fire and Marine Ins. Co. v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • September 1, 1996
    ...(1985), ans. confirmed to, 774 F.2d 94 (4th Cir.1985), that are similar to those used in interpreting a statute. Travelers Ins. Co. v. Benton, 278 Md. 542, 365 A.2d 1000 (1976). Compare Pacific Indem., supra, with Mount v. Mount, 59 Md.App. 538, 476 A.2d 1175 (1984). In fact, in Stanley v. ......
  • Buckley v. Brethren Mut. Ins. Co.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • September 26, 2012
    ...283 Md. 663, 670–74, 392 A.2d 1114 (1978); Government Employees Ins. v. Harvey, 278 Md. 548, 366 A.2d 13 (1976); Travelers Ins. Co. v. Benton, 278 Md. 542, 365 A.2d 1000 (1976); State Farm v. Md. Auto. Ins. Fund, 277 Md. 602, 356 A.2d 560 (1976); Maryland Auto. Ins. Fund v. Stith, 277 Md. 5......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT