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Florida Second DCA reverses trial court ruling that plaintiff was covered under her sister’s Uninsured Motorist policy; because rental car was not a “covered auto,” plaintiff was not an “insured person” entitled to coverage under the policy

On May 15, 2019, in Progressive American Insurance Company v. Pawelczyk, No. 2D18-1651, the Florida Second DCA reversed a trial court’s ruling that the plaintiff in a declaratory judgment action was entitled to insurance coverage under her sister’s Uninsured Motorist (UM) policy.  The plaintiff was a passenger in a rental vehicle driven by her sister, who was insured and entitled to UM benefits under a policy issued by the defendant.  The plaintiff contended that the rental vehicle was an “additional auto” under the policy with respect to which she was entitled to coverage because while the auto was being leased her sister was its “beneficial owner.” The Second DCA rejected this argument, concluding that vehicle rental is a purely possessory interest.  In addition, the Court opined that the plaintiff’s proposed construction of the policy would eviscerate the distinction between Class I insureds (such as the sister or family members residing with her who are entitled to UM coverage even in a rental vehicle) and Class II insureds (vehicle occupants like the plaintiff who are not named insureds or their resident relatives). The Court specifically noted that the plaintiff did not qualify as a “relative” under the policy because she did not reside in the same household as the insured.