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Sayles Does Not Preclude Request For IME

The Eastern District of Pennsylvania recently granted an insurer’s motion to dismiss a bad faith claim after finding that the insurer did not act in bad faith by requesting that the insured attend an independent medical exam (IME) without a court order.  See Elansari v. The First Liberty Ins. Corp., 2021 WL 2211450 (E.D. Pa. May. 11, 2021).

In Elansari, the insured was involved in a motor vehicle accident and submitted a claim to his insurer seeking first-party insurance benefits, including income loss. Unhappy with the amount of benefits provided by the insurer, the insured sued the insurer for breach of contract and statutory bad faith.  The insured alleged that the insurer acted in bad faith by requesting his attendance at an IME without a court order pursuant to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision in Sayles v. Allstate Ins. Co., 219 A.3d 1110 (Pa. 2019).  In Sayles, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that an automobile insurance policy provision that required an insured to submit to an IME upon the insurer’s demand conflicts with the first-party provisions of Pennsylvania’s Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL), which grants courts alone the authority to order exams, if justified, when insureds refuse.

The Court in Elansari held that there was nothing improper about the insurer merely requesting its insured attend an IME with or without a court order.  The Court stated that Sayles had no bearing on its decision for three reasons.  First, Sayles was decided after the insurer conducted its investigation of the insured’s claim and therefore has no bearing on the insurer’s conduct.  Second, the Court noted that the Sayles opinion allows for the possibility that an insured will attend the IME voluntarily, which means that it allows an insurer to ask its insured to attend the IME.  Third, the Court noted that the Sayles opinion says nothing about whether or when an insurer acts in bad faith in conducting an investigation.  The Court noted that the insurer asked several doctors to examine the insured’s claim, and such conduct could not form the basis for a bad faith claim, especially before the Sayles decision.  Accordingly, the Court granted the insurer’s motion to dismiss the bad faith claim.