Fourth DCA Rules That UM Stacking Coverage Available Where Insurance Company Failed to Meet Statutory Notice Requirements

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In Jervis, the Fourth District Court of Appeal determined that an insurance company could not claim that an insured knowingly rejected stacked uninsured (UM) coverage where it had failed to comply with the written notice provisions of Fla. Stat. § 627.727.

The Appellant had purchased UM coverage from Geico for two vehicles. Geico argued at the trial level that the online form Appellant completed was an election of non-stacked coverage. The circuit court judge disagreed and held that this form was void because it was not signed by Appellant, he had no ability to reject or deselect non-stacked coverage, and the signing page did not contain the warning language required by Fla. Stat. § 627.727. Geico did not challenge this ruling on appeal. However, Geico thereafter amended its affirmative defenses to argue that Appellant “made an oral rejection of stacked UM coverage.”  The oral rejection issue was argued at trial, and the jury ruled in favor of Geico.

The Fourth District Court of Appeal explained that under these circumstances, there was no section 627.727 notice at all in the eyes of the law. And, because written notice is mandatory, there could be no informed and knowing acceptance of limitations on stacking. According to the appellate court, summary judgment should have been granted rejecting Geico’s argument that there was “oral rejection of stacked UM coverage,” and trial was unnecessary.

Further, the appellate court expanded on the policy reasons behind its decision, noting that the legislature’s statutory framework promotes UM coverage, and that it is “desirable for motorists to self-insure against potential loss rather than look to state taxpayers for financial assistance after an auto accident.” The court also went on to state that the statute requires certain information, in writing, “as a mandatory prerequisite to an ‘informed’ and ‘knowing’ decision about UM coverage” so that the insured “need expend only minimal effort at becoming fully informed.”

The appellate court then distinguished the case from others, reversed the final judgment in favor of Geico and remanded for entry of a final judgment entitling Appellants to stacked UM coverage.

Citation: Jervis and Jervis v. Castaneda and Geico General Insurance Company, Fla. L. Weekly D908a (April 25, 2018).

(This post was prepared by Karina D. Rodrigues, Esq. For more information, please contact Karina at kdr@kulaw.com or 954-522-6601).