State Farm must pay an uninsured motorist’s claim for injuries caused by an electric scooter even though the scooter did not meet the definition of a “motor vehicle” under Florida law, a court panel ruled Monday. 11th circuit call station.
The panel reversed a US District Court decision to grant summary judgment in favor of the insurer. He rejected State Farm’s argument that it only provides coverage to uninsured motorists for accidents caused by motor vehicles that meet the definitions of the State Fiscal Responsibility Act or the uninsured motorists.
“Certainly, Florida courts may incorporate statutory limitations and requirements into an insurance contract to determine the contractual rights of the parties, but FRL and UM statutes only prescribe minimum requirements,” the opinion states. “Because State Farm has not defined the term ‘uninsured motor vehicle’ in a way that does not comply with FRL or UM law, we see no reason to redefine a policy term by incorporating a statutory definition. “
Anna Bevilacqua Sprangler was driving a 2015 Nissan Altima insured by State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. on U.S. Highway 1 in Brevard County on July 11, 2019 when it collided with a left-turning Razor Pocket Mod scooter in front of her. The scooter driver, Edward Allen Leveque, was killed in the crash. Spangler suffered injuries to his back, neck and left knee.
Sprangler filed a claim with State Farm asking for the uninsured motorist policy’s $100,000 limit for his injuries. State Farm denied the claim and sued in the U.S. District Court for the Intermediate District of Florida seeking a declaratory judgment that there was no coverage under the policy because the scooter did not was not a motor vehicle.
District Court Judge Paul Byron granted a motion for summary judgment filed by State Farm because the scooter was not designed to be driven on public roads, meaning it could not be a ” uninsured motor vehicle” as defined in the laws of Florida. Spangler appealed.
The 11th Circuit committee ruled that the legal definition was irrelevant. The state’s Uninsured Motorist Act defines the term “motor vehicle” to ensure a minimum level of coverage is offered, but nothing prevents insurers from providing more coverage than necessary, the opinion says. . The policy State Farm sold to Sprangler offered benefits to uninsured motorists for damage or injury caused by “motor land vehicles,” but did not define the term.
The panel said the Razor Pocket Mod has a 250-watt electric motor powered by two 12-volt batteries. It was made without a tail light, brake lights, or turn signals and had no vehicle identification number or license plate.
The appeal says that the ordinary meaning of the term “motorized land vehicle” includes electric scooters such as the Razor Pocket Mod. It is powered by an engine and moves on land. State Farm’s policy, furthermore, expressly includes coverage for vehicles that are designed for use primarily off public roads.
State Farm argued that the court should use the definition of motor vehicle included in the Financial Responsibility Act, but the appeal panel said the statutory definition only encompasses motor vehicles designed for use on public roads. State Farm policy used the word “land” before motor vehicle, broadening the scope of the term to include all-terrain vehicles.
“Because State Farm has not defined the term ‘uninsured motor vehicle’ in a way that does not comply with FRL or UM law, we see no reason to redefine a policy term by incorporating a statutory definition” , says the notice.
The panel reversed the trial court’s decision granting summary judgment in favor of State Farm.
Top photo: Illustration of the type of scooter widely found in cities around the world.
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