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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. “
Injured passenger can ‘stack’ automobile, UIM policies say, North Carolina Court of Appeals
In another matter about underinsured motorists, the North Carolina Court of Appeals found this week that an injured plaintiff can “stack” the coverage limits of two different policies to show that a vehicle was underinsured. insured and the claimant is entitled to a larger payment.
The court upheld a Wake County Superior Court judge who decided against North Carolina Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co.
“On the basis of stare decisis alone, we find that the trial court did not err in granting defendants’ motion for summary judgment,” Court of Appeals Judge Jeffrey Carpenter wrote in the statement. unpublished opinion of 4 April.
The complex case began in 2020. Kyrie Mebane was one of many people injured in a two-car collision in Rockingham County. Terell Bellamy was the driver of the vehicle found to be at fault, the car in which Kyrie Mebane was. Bellamy’s car was covered by a Farm Bureau personal auto insurance policy, with limits of $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident.
Farm Bureau proposed the limit per accident, split between six injured passengers. This left Kyrie with just $5,000.
Kyrie was living with her mother at the time, and Alisha Mebane’s auto policy, also written by Farm Bureau, provided underinsured motorist coverage of $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident. The insurer offered to pay Kyrie $45,000 – her mother’s UIM policy limit minus Bellamy’s $5,000 liability coverage.
Farm Bureau argued that Bellamy’s vehicle was not underinsured and that Bellamy’s UIM coverage was the same limit as Bellamy’s auto liability coverage, so Kyrie was not entitled to Bellamy’s UIM coverage. Bellamy, only to Kyrie’s mother’s underinsured coverage. Kyrie Mebane’s attorneys argued that Kyrie owed $95,000 to the $45,000 Farm Bureau offered from Kyrie’s mother’s UIM policy plus the $50,000 per person limit of Bellamy’s UIM coverage.
The correct way to determine underinsured status, Kyrie’s attorneys said, is to compare Bellamy’s liability coverage to the sum of Bellamy’s UIM coverage and Alisha Mebane’s UIM coverage. With this “stacked” comparison, Bellamy’s vehicle was considered underinsured. The trial court judge agreed and Farm Bureau appealed.
The appeals court noted that North Carolina financial responsibility law states that the vehicle involved in the accident is underinsured if the car’s total liability coverage is less than the vehicle’s total UIM coverage.
“In other words, even if a vehicle’s liability coverage is greater than or equal to its UIM coverage, a vehicle is deemed underinsured if more than one person is injured in an accident, and one of those people receives a liability payment that is less than the vehicle’s UIM coverage,” the appeals judge explained.
Matters were complicated by the fact that the law also allows an exception for multiple claimants.
“The applicability of the exception is limited to ‘where the amount paid to an individual claimant is less than the claimant’s UIM coverage limits after liability payments to multiple claimants,'” the opinion noted, citing a decision of previous justice.
The 2018 appeals court decision in Nationwide Affinity Insurance v Le Bei set a landmark precedent here, the judges said.
“This court, notwithstanding the apparent plain language of the statute, ‘agrees with [the defendants’] framing the matter and concluded the multiple plaintiffs exception d[id] does not apply” because “[t]The General Assembly added the multiple claimant exception…in an effort to further protect innocent victims of financially irresponsible motorists.
Because the court allowed stacking to Le Bei, “the trial court did not err in allowing the defendants to stack Defendant Alisha’s UIM coverage in addition to Bellamy’s UIM coverage to determine whether Bellamy’s vehicle was underinsured,” the appeals court wrote.
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.