Fla. Supreme Court Sides with State Farm in Auto Insurance Case

The Florida Supreme Court has decided that, while a part of a State Farm auto insurance contract was complex, it was not ambiguous.

As a result, the state’s highest court has quashed a lower court’s decision that sided with the policyholder, leaving State Farm free from having to cover two passengers’ bodily injury damages.

The case centered on a complicated issue of legalese in a car insurance contract.

Gilda Menendez’s State Farm liability policy contained an exclusion saying that the coverage provider would not have to dole out compensation for crash-related bodily injuries of “any insured” or “any member of an insured’s family” who resided in the same household.

At the time of the crash that sparked the case, Menendez’s granddaughter, Fabiola Llanes, was driving the car with her parents and Menendez as passengers. All were injured in the crash.

Since Menendez had granted Llanes permission to drive, the granddaughter was effectively covered under the State Farm policy.

The question in the case was whether the injuries suffered by Llanes’ parents, whom Llanes lived with, should be covered under the policy.

From Menendez’s perspective, she was in fact the policyholder and, because of that, Llanes’ parents should not be subject to the exclusion, since they did not live with Menendez.

From State Farm’s perspective, the “insured” mentioned in the exclusion at the time of the accident was actually Llanes–not Menendez–since Llanes was the one granted permission to drive the vehicle and was the one behind the wheel. And because Llanese lived with her parents, they would fall under the exclusion and should not receive compensation.

A lower court had ruled that the household exclusion was ambiguous and that it should be interpreted in favor of Menendez because of that.

But the state Supreme Court disagreed.

The members of the court said there were parts of the contract that specifically referenced the insured person who is named on the policy–which would be Menendez–and other parts of the contract that specifically referenced any person covered under the policy. Because of this, they said the definition of “any insured” referenced in the exclusion portion could reasonably include motorists whom Menendez gave permission to drive the car.

In its decision, the state Supreme Court cited a similar case with a similarly worded exclusion that was tested in 1981 and ultimately was decided in State Farm’s favor.

The court handed down its decision on Thursday.

Shoppers considering purchasing a policy from State Farm can get free car insurance quotes and check up on user-submitted State Farm auto insurance reviews online.

About Ben Zitney
Benjamin Zitney has been covering the auto insurance industry for the past 2.5 years. Before coming to Online Auto Insurance News, he produced an extensive company history of the 30-year-old California Joint Powers Insurance Authority and worked at the Cal State Long Beach Daily Forty-Niner as a reporter, copy editor and news editor.

No comments yet.

Comment on this article