Auto insurance

Eleventh Circuit finds golf cart covered by auto insurance policy

A golf cart, at least according to a recent Eleventh Circuit ruling regarding insurance coverage for a minor driving a golf cart. GEICO Gen. Ins. Co. c. Gonalezno. 21-13304.

The policy covered bodily injury resulting from the use of a “private passenger, farm or utility vehicle”. It defined a “private passenger car” as “a four-wheeled passenger car, station wagon or jeep-like car, including an agricultural or utility car as defined”.

The court found that the definition included a golf cart because it was “a four-wheel passenger vehicle owned by an individual.” This remained true even reading this definition in the context of “farm automobile” and “utility automobile”. A Florida state court had interpreted similar definitions to incorporate “a common, albeit implicit, element”: “as an inherent design feature, the ability to drive lawfully and safely on public roads.” Citing Florida laws allowing golf carts on public roads and the “ubiquitous” nature of golf carts “on public roads in golf and beach communities throughout Florida,” the court ruled that this implicit element was satisfied.

The court also singled out an earlier Eleventh Circuit case finding that a golf cart was not a “car” under an insurance policy. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. c. Baldassini, 545 F. App’x 842, 843-44 (11th Cir. 2013). There, the policy defined ‘car’ as ‘a four-wheeled motor vehicle ‘designed for use primarily on public roads’”. But there was no similar limitation in Gonalez. Thus, the Eleventh Circuit found that a golf cart was an “automobile” under the policy in question even though it was not a “car” under another policy.

Copyright © 2022, Hunter Andrews Kurth LLP. All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 277