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Vol. 8 - Issue 11
December 18, 2019


What A Great “Use Of An Auto” Case


I’ve said this many times on these pages – I love “use of an auto” cases (addressing the triggering an Auto or UM/UIM policy or the applicability of a CGL or homeowner’s policy’s auto exclusion).  They have a way of involving strange facts.  See Roque v. Allstate Ins. Co., Colorado Court of Appeals (2012): (exiting your car and hitting another motorist with a golf club did not qualify as use of an auto for purposes of a UM policy).

That such coverage case curiosities exist is not surprising.  After all, we all know what it means to use an auto.   So, if “use of an auto” is being litigated, then it’s probably because the claim involves a car or truck and something out of the ordinary.

Such is the case in Deutsch v. Geico General Ins. Co., No. 4D18-2714 (Ct. App. Fla. Oct. 30, 2019).  To be technical, this is not a “use of an auto” case in the purest form.  However, it is very similar, and, in fact, the issue arises.

The story goes like this:

“Garrett Nodell owns and operates Mobile Fitness Centers of America, Inc., a mobile gym that operates out of the back of an Isuzu truck.  To train his clients, Nodell drives the gym to a client’s location and conducts workouts in the back of the truck. The gym is equipped with exercise machines and equipment, some of which are bolted to the floor of the truck. The gym is powered by either a generator or by Nodell plugging into the client’s electricity.

For several years, Natalie Deutsch trained with Nodell. Her training sessions took place in the back of the truck while it was parked near her home and plugged into her home’s electricity. According to the complaint, as a result of Nodell’s negligence during training, Deutsch suffered permanent injuries.

Deutsch sued Nodell and Mobile Fitness Centers and those suits were settled. She also sued Geico, her auto insurance carrier, contending that the mobile gym was an uninsured/underinsured auto under her policy.”

First of all, how do you work out in the back of an Isuzu truck?  I bet you are wondering that.  I was.  So I Googled it and it turns out that mobile gyms are, well, a thing.  At least I found some websites for such businesses and some pictures of the retrofired vehicles.  I understand that, having the gym come to you, is time saving.  But, if you really want to be efficient, why not work out in the mobile gym while it is driving you to the office?

In any event, at issue before the Florida appeals court was whether a mobile gym was an uninsured/underinsured auto under an auto policy? 

The definition of an “uninsured auto” excluded from its terms “a land motor vehicle . . . located for use as a residence or premises.”  

The trial court found for Geico, concluding that the mobile gym was not an uninsured auto.  On appeal, Deutsch argued that the mobile gym was not a premises, because it is not a house, building or tract of land.  Therefore, Deutsch argued that the mobile gym did not come within the “premises exception” to the definition of “uninsured auto.”

But the Florida appeals court was not buying it:

“It is true that the truck is not a house, a building, or a tract of land. Under the Geico policy, the central inquiry is not whether a truck is real estate, but whether the truck was ‘located for use as a . . . premises,’ which Harrington defines as a ‘building, along with its grounds.’*** [C]lients worked out in the mobile gym only when it was stationary, parked, and connected to a power source.  The clients never worked out when the gym was being driven as a vehicle. When used as a gym, the stationary truck was ‘located for use as a’ building, just as any gym in a strip mall.  Because the truck was being used as a ‘premises’ when the negligence occurred, it was not an uninsured auto under the policy.”  (emphasis in original).

By concluding that the mobile gym was not an “uninsured auto,” the court did not need to reach the question whether the injuries arose out of the use of a vehicle.  But, as you can see, Deutsch v. Geico is a very close cousin to a “use of an auto” case.  I love “use of an auto” cases.    


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