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Lentini v. American Southern Home Insurance Co.

Florida Court of Appeals, Fifth District

December 15, 2017

LOUIS PHILIP LENTINI, AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF MICHAEL E. LENTINI, JR., Appellant,
v.
AMERICAN SOUTHERN HOME INSURANCE COMPANY, Appellee.

          NOT FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE MOTION FOR REHEARING AND DISPOSITION THEREOF IF FILED

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Hernando County, Richard Tombrink, Jr., Judge.

          John N. Bogdanoff, of The Carlyle Appellate Law Firm, The Villages, for Appellant.

          Maureen G. Pearcy and Andrew E. Grigsby, of Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP, Coral Gables, for Appellee.

          PER CURIAM.

         The issue presented in this appeal is whether a collector vehicle insurance policy that restricts coverage requires an insurer to provide uninsured motorist coverage for accidents not involving the collector vehicle. Michael Lentini purchased a collector vehicle insurance policy from American Southern Home Insurance Company for his 1992 Chevrolet Corvette. The policy included $300, 000 in coverage for bodily injury and property damage and $300, 000 in stacked uninsured motorist coverage. The premium for the policy was $416 per year, $58 of which was for the uninsured motorist coverage. In 2015, Lentini was involved in a fatal accident while riding his motorcycle. His estate sought uninsured motorist coverage for the accident under the collector vehicle policy. American Southern denied the claim.

         Lentini's estate filed suit. In response, American Southern asserted that it was not required to provide uninsured motorist coverage because Lentini was not occupying the insured collector vehicle when the accident occurred. Specifically, the collector vehicle policy contained several limitations on the use of the collector vehicle and excluded uninsured motorist coverage "for bodily injury sustained . . . [b]y an insured while occupying, or when struck by, any motor vehicle owned by that insured which is not insured for this coverage under this policy." In addition, the definition of an "insured" under the policy endorsement specified that it applied to Lentini while occupying the "covered auto." The policy also required Lentini to own a principal means of transportation insured by a separate policy; if he did not, then no coverage would apply to his collector vehicle.

         Both parties moved for summary judgment. American Southern relied on Martin v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Insurance Co., 670 So.2d 997, 998 (Fla. 2d DCA 1996), where the court held that section 627.727, Florida Statutes (1992), does "not require a specialty insurance policy covering only an antique automobile with restricted highway usage to provide uninsured motorist coverage for accidents not involving the antique." American Southern argued that it was not required to provide uninsured motorist coverage for the accident because of the special nature of the collector vehicle and the language of the insurance policy. It also pointed out that Lentini's policy had a reduced premium because the coverage was limited; only specific "collector" vehicles qualified for such coverage; the coverage limited the use of the vehicle; and the specific policy language limited the liability coverage by restricting the definition of an "insured." The estate countered that Martin was wrongly decided, in contravention of both section 627.727, Florida Statutes (2015), and Florida Supreme Court precedent interpreting its provisions.

         The trial court opined that Martin appeared to conflict with section 627.727 but concluded that it was bound to follow Martin because it was factually analogous to the instant case. See State v. Washington, 114 So.3d 182, 185 (Fla. 3d DCA 2012) ("While a lower court is free to disagree and to express its disagreement with an appellate court ruling, it is duty-bound to follow it."). The court entered final summary judgment in favor of American Southern. This appeal followed.

         Section 627.727, Florida Statutes, governs "[m]otor vehicle insurance; uninsured and underinsured vehicle coverage; [and] insolvent insurer protection." It provides, in relevant part:

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.

§ 627.727(1), Fla. Stat. (2015). The statute delineates specific limitations that insurers may place on uninsured motorist coverage, which include:

(a)The coverage provided as to two or more motor vehicles shall not be added together to determine the limit of insurance coverage available to an injured person for any one accident, except as provided in paragraph (c).
(b) If at the time of the accident the injured person is occupying a motor vehicle, the uninsured motorist coverage available to her or him is the coverage ...

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