BECAUSE PUBLIC POLICY PROVIDES LIABILITY COVERAGE FOR CERTAIN DAMAGES CAUSED BY THE INSURED’S USE OF A NON-OWNED GOLF CART, PUBLIC POLICY ALSO REQUIRES UM COVERAGE TO BE RECIPROCAL.
Amica Mutual Insurance Co. v. Willis, 43 Fla. L. Weekly D161 (Fla. 2nd DCA January 17, 2018):
The insured was walking on a paved pathway when she was hit by an underinsured golf cart. Her UM carrier, Amica, denied benefits because a golf cart was not an uninsured motor vehicle under a policy exclusion. The trial court disagreed, and ruled that the exclusion was invalid as against public policy requiring the UM coverage to be reciprocal to its liability coverage.
The policy provided liability coverage to the insured, and contained an exclusion for vehicles designed mainly for use off public roads with an exception for any non-owned golf cart. Thus, the policy provided liability coverage for the use of a non-owned golf cart. The policy also provided corresponding UM for certain damages.
However, unlike the liability portion, the exclusion did not provide an exception for non-owned golf carts.
Plaintiff asserted that the UM exclusion was inconsistent with the statutory intent that policies provide UM coverage as reciprocal to liability coverage. She argued that because the policy provided liability coverage, the UM provision could not exclude it, citing Sommerville v. Allstate, 65 So.3d 558 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2011).
The court agreed. It wrote that section 627.727(1) states that no motor vehicle liability insurance policy which provides BI coverage shall be delivered unless UM coverage is also provided. As a creature of statute rather than the matter of contemplation of the parties in creating an insurance policy, the UM protection is not susceptible to the attempts of the insured to limit or negate a protection.
In Sommerville, the court applied these general principles to determine that a UM exclusion for people occupying rented autos was invalid. The insurance policy at issue there also provided both liability and UM coverage to anyone occupying a covered auto.
Because UM coverage follows liability coverage, the UM policy was required to provide reciprocal coverage. A narrower interpretation would not be consistent with the supreme court’s express prohibition against the piece meal “whittling away” of the UM statute.