Is a Declaratory Judgment Proceeding An Optional Substitute for An Action of Assumpsit ?

In Philadelphia Manufacturers Mut. Ins. Fire Co. v. Rose, 364 Pa. 15, 70 A.2d 316 (1950), an insurer and insured sought a declaration as to their respective rights under a policy of fire insurance when fire partially destroyed one of the insured's buildings. The trial court found that the policy did not cover the partially destroyed building, and the insured filed exceptions; however the en banc court did not address the insured's exceptions, concluding that a declaratory judgment proceeding was not an optional substitute for an action of assumpsit. Id. at 19, 70 A.2d at 318. The supreme court reversed, however, because the legislature had recently amended the DJA to allow a party to seek declaratory relief even where the controversy was susceptible of relief though a general common law or equitable remedy. Id. at 20, 70 A.2d at 319, citing 12 P.S. 836 (repealed). Noting that declaratory judgments were frequently used to determine coverage in insurance cases, the supreme court opined that regardless of the form of the declaration, whether for insurer or insured, the declaration would end the controversy. Id. at 23, 70 A.2d at 320. According to the supreme court, "The proceeding should not be dismissed because in one contingency it may be necessary, either by supplementary proceedings in this case or by independent action, based on what may be adjudicated in this case, to determine the amount of the damage payable." Id., citing 12 P.S. 838.