In an odd case from Florida, an appellate court determined that a woman who was injured in a mobile gym truck could not recover from her own uninsured motorist policy through Geico.
The strange facts of this case made this an interesting case to read and write about. I had never heard of anything like it existing. Apparently, a woman named Natalie Deutsch hired a personal trainer named Garrett Nodell. Mr. Nodell owns and operates a company called Mobile Fitness Centers of America, Inc. Mr. Nodell has an Isuzu truck that looks like a box truck. In the back of the truck is exercise equipment and some of it is even bolted to the floor. If you hire him, he will drive the truck to your house and he will do personal training sessions with you in the back of the truck. The truck gets plugged into a power source at the house, I assume to power the lights and possibly air conditioning. If you check out the website, you will see how unique of a concept this mobile personal training operation is.
In any event, Ms. Deutsh alleged that she was injured by Mr. Nodell and Mobile Fitness during one of their personal training sessions. She made an injury claim against them and settled. Then she made a claim for compensation against her own car insurance policy with Geico. She alleged that the amount of her injuries exceeded the policy carried by Mr, Nodell and Mobile Fitness. Geico denied the claim, so she filed suit.
Trial Court’s Decision:
Ms. Deutsch and Geico both asked the court to rule in their favor. The trial judge in Palm Beach County ruled in favor of Geico and dismissed her case. The judge ruled that the mobile gym did not qualify as an uninsured automobile under her policy because it was located for use as a premises. Ms. Deutsch appealed the ruling to the Fourth District Court of Appeal.
Appellate Court Ruling:
In Deutsch v. Geico, Case No. 4D18-2714 decided on October 30, 2019, the Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s decision. That means that it said that the trial judge made the correct decision in ruling in favor of Geico. But, the court gave a detailed analysis of what qualified under the Geico insurance policy because this clearly was a unique fact pattern.
The insurance policy with Geico in question provides that a vehicle located for use as a premises is not an uninsured auto. But, the policy did not define what premises means.
Ms. Deutsch relied on a case called Harrington v. Citizens Prop. Ins. Corp., 54 So.3d 999 (Fla. 4th DCA 2010). Harrington dealt with a homeowner’s insurance policy that provided coverage for an insured location which included a premises. In the case, the court went through an analysis of the term premises by pulling the definition of what it meant from Black’s Law Dictionary. Black’s defined premises as a house or building or tract of land. Therefore, Ms. Deutsch claimed that because the mobile gym was not a house, building or tract of land, it did not fit within the definition of premises and therefore should be covered.
The appellate court agreed that the mobile gym was not a house, building or tract of land, but stated the central issue was whether the truck was located for use as a premises. It stated that the mobile gym was only used for personal training when stationary, parked and connected to a power source. When used for a gym, it concluded that the stationary truck was located for use as a building or premises just like any normal gym that you could find around town. Because it was being used as a premises when the injury to Ms. Deutsch occurred, it was not an uninsured auto under the Geico policy. The appellate court went on to say that the case cited by Ms. Deutsch dealt with homeowner’s policies, not uninsured motorist coverage, so they did not apply to this analysis.
Anyone reading this decision should not be surprised that Ms. Deutsch’s Geico UM policy did not cover her for this injury. While I’m sure that most people feel sorry for the injuries that she sustained, sometimes there are limitations to what can be recovered. She had a legitimate claim against her personal trainer and the company for the negligence that caused her injuries. But, when those insurance policies were exhausted, it was really a stretch to try to pursue her own auto uninsured motorist coverage.
St. Petersburg Personal Injury Attorneys McQuaid & Douglas
If you have been injured due to the carelessness or negligence of another, please contact us to discuss your legal options. Our firm has been in existence for over 60 years and has handled many unique injury cases. While we have never handled a case involving a mobile gym, there are many circumstances that may present an opportunity to provide compensation that a non-lawyer may not have thought of. We pride ourselves on making common sense and intelligent decisions on what type of coverage to pursue. We would be honored to discuss your legal situation at no charge.