Florida Appellate Court Overturns Dismissal in Uninsured Motorist Coverage Dispute: Gallon v. GEICO General Insurance Co.

In Gallon v. GEICO General Insurance Co., a man was injured in a one-car motor vehicle collision while riding as a passenger in a woman’s automobile. The man was thrown from the car and reportedly sustained serious harm as a result of the traffic wreck. At the time of the incident, the driver carried uninsured motorist (UM) coverage on her vehicle. Following the accident, the man made a claim with the driver’s insurer for UM benefits. The insurance company claimed that the woman’s UM policy limits were $50,000 per individual. The man argued that he was entitled to receive up to $100,000 because the woman maintained UM coverage on two separate vehicles. Since the parties failed to come to an agreement regarding the automobile insurance policy limits, the man filed a lawsuit against the insurer.

As part of his lawsuit, the man accused the automobile insurance company of negligent misrepresentation. In Florida, a party alleging such a cause of action must be able to demonstrate that a material fact was misrepresented, the party making the misrepresentation knew or should have known the statement was false, the statement was made to induce another to act on the misrepresentation, and injury resulted to the party who reasonably relied on the untrue statement.

According to the injured man, the driver’s insurance policy lapsed and was reinstated for a higher premium prior to the single-vehicle wreck. He claimed that a representative for the insurer told the woman her policy would pay double UM benefits in the event of a collision because she carried coverage on two autos. The injured man argued the insurer’s agent said this in order to convince the driver to pay higher premiums. The man also stated the driver relied on the worker’s statement, only to have the company limit the man’s damages award to $50,000. The insurance company countered that the driver could not have reasonably relied on the employee’s statement because it directly conflicted with the unambiguous language of the automobile insurance policy. A trial court sided with the insurer and granted the company’s motion to dismiss the man’s lawsuit.

On appeal, Florida’s Second District Court of Appeals found that the man successfully alleged the elements required to demonstrate negligent misrepresentation in his complaint. According to the court, the terms of the auto policy did not preclude a negligent misrepresentation lawsuit from being pursued against the insurance company if the insurer’s employee made untrue statements that the insured justifiably relied upon to her detriment. In addition, the court stated whether or not the driver’s reliance on the statement made by the insurance company’s agent was reasonable was a question of fact for jurors to decide. Since the injured man’s complaint was sufficient to state a claim for negligent misrepresentation, Florida’s Second District Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s order and remanded the man’s case for trial.

If you or someone you love was injured in a South Florida automobile collision, the experienced motor vehicle accident attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. may be able to help.  To discuss your car accident case with a skillful advocate, do not hesitate to call Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. at (305) 448-8585 or contact us online.

Additional Resources:

Gallon v. GEICO General Insurance Co., Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 2nd Dist. 2014

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