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Pennsylvania Supreme Court gets a little help from its friends

Pennsylvania Supreme Court gets a little help from its friends

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court clarified an important liability insurance issue the other day. Mut. Benefit Ins. Co. v. Politsopoulos, 2015 Pa. LEXIS 1126 (Pa. May 26, 2015) (exclusion for liability for injury to “[a]n ‘employee’ of the insured arising out of and in the course of . . . [e]mployment by the insured” applies only when claimant was an employee of the insured seeking coverage – in light of separation of insureds clause, and other policy provisions, “the insured” means “the insured seeking coverage”). In so doing it gave full credit to the amici curiae that went to the trouble and expense to assist the court:

 Supplementing Appellees’ arguments, their amici offer sharper focus. . . .  Amici stress. . . . [A]mici observe. . . . Self-evidently, the Policyholder Amici assert. . . .The Policyholder Amici contrast instances in which. . . . Amicus the Pennsylvania Association for Justice further contributes references to cases from other jurisdictions. . . . In particular, the Association highlights one federal court’s depiction of Pennsylvania’s contrary approach, as reflected in PMA, as being ‘archaic and isolated in the context of the laws of the federal union.’ . . . . [A]s further developed by the Policyholder Amici. . . .

Amicus briefs can, of course, be abused. Judge Posner, refusing leave to file an amicus brief, famously declared: “After 16 years of reading amicus curiae briefs the vast majority of which have not assisted the judges, I have decided that it would be good to scrutinize these motions in a more careful, indeed a fish-eyed, fashion.” And the opinion in which he made this declaration is a must for any would-be amicus. But done right they are a priceless part of our judicial system. Kudos to the Politsopoulos amici — the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, Koppers Holdings Inc., Matthews International Corporation, Mine Safety Appliances Company, LLC, Dravo Corporation, E.W. Bowman, Inc., and United Policyholders – and kudos to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for hearing and acknowledging them.

Robert ("Bob") M. Frey

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