In the case of Natalie S. Deutsch v. GEICO General Insurance Company, Case Number 4D18-2714 (Fla. 4th DCA October 30, 2019), Florida’s Fourth DCA held that a mobile gym operated out of the back of a truck was not considered an uninsured vehicle for purposes of UM coverage.
Ms. Deutsch sustained an injury while training from a “mobile gym” that was operated out of the back of an Isuzu truck. Mobile Fitness Centers of America, Inc. is a business that provides exercise machines and gym equipment bolted tot he floor of a truck. Power was provided to the truck by means of either a generator or plugging into power provided by the client’s residence.
Ms. Deutsch had been a customer for many years and the truck was plugged into her home’s electricity while she was working out. Apparently, Ms. Deutsch sustained permanent injuries and obtained a settlement from the mobile gym. Thereafter, she sued GEICO for her UM benefits under her own auto policy.
Court Ruling and Appeal
The trial judge ruled in favor of GEICO and the Fourth DCA upheld that the mobile gym was not considered an uninsured vehicle for purposes of UM coverage.
GEICO’s policy stated that it will pay damages for bodily caused by an accident which the insured is legally entitled to recover from the owner or operator of an “uninsured auto arising out fo the ownership, maintenance or use of that auto.” “Uninsured auto” does not include “a land motor vehicle … located for use as a residence or premises…” in its policy definition. “Premises” is not defined in the policy.
Ms. Deutsch argued that the mobile gym was not a “premises” because it was “not a house, it is not a building, and it is not a tract of land.”
The Fourth DCA found that the stationary truck, when used a gym, was “located for use as a building, just as any gym in a strip mall.”
This case seems to be another instance in the law where something should be simple and obvious gets contorted because of the money involved. I have always interpreted the UM portion of auto policies to exclude coverage for mobile homes and believe that is what the insurer’s intent behind the exclusion was rather than to exclude mobile businesses.
It is inherently problematic for lawyers and for courts to determine when a vehicle has shape-shifted from a vehicle into a building or “premises” and when it has not. There are a number of specialized vehicles out there (mobile MRI, food trucks, mobile window tinting, mobile dog grooming, etc.) that this type of shape-shifting policy may apply to and may result in inconsistent or incoherent court results.
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