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Florida Supreme Court Resolves Conflict Between Second and Fifth District Court of Appeals, Ruling that Language in a Reduced-Premium Collector Vehicle Policy Limiting Uninsured Motorist Coverage to Accidents Involving the Occupancy or Use of the Collector Vehicle Violates Florida Statute

Author: Nathan Furman

Guest Editor: Christopher Schon

May 6, 2020 7:39pm

American Southern Home Ins. Co. v. Lentini, 286 So.3d 157 (Fla. 2019), arose from a fatal accident between the insured, who operated his motorcycle, and an uninsured motorist. The insured’s estate made a claim for uninsured motorist (UM) benefits under the reduced-premium policy issued on the insured’s collector vehicle, a 1992 Chevrolet Corvette.

The insurer denied the claim because the policy limited UM coverage to accidents involving the occupancy or use of the collector vehicle and the insured had died while operating his motorcycle and not his collector vehicle, the Corvette. The estate sued, arguing that the policy language violated section 626.727, Florida Statutes, which provides:

No motor vehicle liability insurance policy which provides bodily injury liability coverage shall be delivered or issued for delivery in this state with respect to any specifically insured or identified motor vehicle registered or principally garaged in this state unless uninsured motor vehicle coverage is provided therein or supplemental thereto for the protection of persons insured thereunder who are legally entitled to recover damages from owners or operators of uninsured motor vehicles because of bodily injury, sickness, or disease, including death, resulting therefrom. However, the coverage required under this section is not applicable when, or to the extent that, an insured named in the policy makes a written rejection of the coverage on behalf of all insureds under the policy.

Section 627.727(1), Fla. Stat. The insurer argued the statute did not apply to specialty insurance policies such as the collector vehicle policy at issue.

The trial court granted summary judgment for the insurer. In reaching its decision, the court relied on Martin v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 670 So.2d 997 (Fla. 2d DCA 1996), where the Second District Court of Appeal held that the statute did not specifically mandate coverage for claims unconnected with the insured vehicle.

The insured’s estate appealed. The Fifth District Court of Appeal reversed, concluding that the collector vehicle policy must but did not comply with the statutory mandates of section 627.727(9), Fla. Stat., which prohibit the limitations placed on UM coverage in the collector vehicle policy.

The Florida Supreme Court accepted review and affirmed the Fifth District’s decision. The court emphasized that nothing in section 627.727 excluded collector or antique vehicle insurance policies from its application. To the contrary, section 627.727 expressly provides that “[n]o motor vehicle liability insurance policy . . . shall be delivered or issued for delivery in this state . . . unless uninsured motor vehicle coverage is provided therein.”

Section 627.727(9)(d) allowed insurers to exclude coverage for injuries suffered in vehicles “for which uninsured motorist coverage was not purchased,” the limitation can only be imposed with the insured’s consent. Notably, however, the insured had not rejected UM coverage, had elected stacked UM coverage, and was never asked to consent to the specific limitation in the policy.

Conclusion

Insurers wanting to limit UM coverage to specific vehicles should obtain the insured’s express acceptance or assent to that limitation.

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