Texas Supreme Court Rules Golf Cart Accident Isn’t Covered in District’s Auto Liability Policy

February 14, 2022

The Texas Supreme Court recently ruled that injuries suffered in a golf cart at a school isn’t covered in an auto liability policy held by the school district.

In Pharr–San Juan–Alamo Independent School District, v. Texas Political Subdivisions Property/Casualty Joint Self Insurance Fund, the court ruled on a case that involves a dispute whether an automobile-liability insurance policy requires the insurer to defend and indemnify the insured against claims for damages arising from an accident involving a golf cart.

The court ruled the insurer had no duty to defend the insured because a golf cart is not the same as a vehicle “designed for travel on public roads” as stated in the policy, is not covered.

The school district obtained auto liability insurance from the Texas Political Subdivisions Property/Casualty Joint Self Insurance Fund, which requires the fund to indemnify the district and pay as damages due to bodily injury or property damage to which the self-insurance applies if those damages are “caused by an accident and result[s] from the ownership, maintenance or use of a covered auto.”

Lorena Flores, acting on behalf of her minor daughter Alexis, sued the school district and its employee, Cristoval DeLaGarza, Jr., alleging that Alexis “was severely injured after being thrown from a golf cart.”

The suit alleged that DeLaGarza “recklessly and negligently operated” the golf cart when “he suddenly, and without warning, turned the golf cart abruptly, thereby throwing Alexis Flores from the vehicle.”

The insurance fund refused to indemnify the district because the policy did not provide coverage because a golf cart is not designed for travel on public roads and thus is not an “auto,” as defined in the policy.

The fund filed the suit seeking a declaratory judgment that it had no duty to defend the district, and the district filed a counter-claim for declaratory judgment that the policy required the fund to defend and indemnify the school district.

A trial court ruled the policy requires the fund to defend and indemnify the school district, and an appeals court reversed that decision.

The Supreme Court affirmed the ruling, noting the fund “would be entitled to a summary judgment on both the duty to defend and the duty to indemnify.”

However, the fund filed motions for summary judgment on both duties in the trial court and appealed the trial court’s denial of those motions, but the court of appeals affirmed.

“The Insurance Fund requests in its brief that this Court reverse the court of appeals’ judgment and render judgment in favor of the Insurance Fund, but we cannot grant that relief because the Insurance Fund did not file a petition for review in this Court,” the ruling states.

The court remanded the case to the trial court.

Topics Legislation Auto Texas Education

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