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Florida Fourth DCA rules that at-fault driver’s Geico motor vehicle liability insurance policy did not cover accident involving vehicle owned by third party and made available for regular use by driver

On May 12, 2021, in Geico Indemnity Company v. Walker, et al., No. 4D20-764, the Florida Fourth DCA reversed a trial court ruling in a motor vehicle negligence wrongful death case that Geico, the at-fault driver’s insurer, was liable for payment of its policy limits to the estate of a passenger who died in the single car accident. At the time of the accident, the at-fault driver was driving his stepfather’s collector’s car, a 1992 Porsche, which was not a listed vehicle under the at-fault driver’s Geico policy. However, the trial court concluded that coverage applied because of the “non-owned auto” provision in the policy that extended coverage to loss arising out of the use of “a private passenger, farm or utility auto or trailer not owned by, furnished or available for regular use of either you or your relative, other than a temporary substitute auto.” Geico contended, and the Fourth DCA agreed, that the “non-owned auto” provision did not apply in this case because the Porsche was in fact made available for regular use to the at-fault driver. The Court cited Valiant Ins. Co. v. Evonosky, 864 F. Supp. 1189, 1192 (M.D. Fla. 1994), in which the Middle District of Florida case considered the plain meaning of the term “available for the regular use,” explaining that “[i]n common usage, ‘available’ means: ‘suitable or ready for use’ and ‘readily obtainable; accessible’; and ‘regular’ means: ‘usual; normal; customary.’” 864 F. Supp. at 1191 (quoting The Random House Dictionary of the English Language (1967)). The Fourth DCA noted that the at-fault driver had his own set of keys to the vehicle and had the freedom to use the vehicle without restriction and at his own discretion.

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