Amy Gore—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group
The Virginia Supreme Court in Erie Insurance Exchange v. Jones by Hardison, ___ Va. ___, 870 S.E.2d 716 (2022), reversed a lower court ruling concerning the scope of coverage under a homeowner’s policy for injuries involving an all-terrain vehicle (“ATV”). There, a passenger on an ATV was injured when a tree limb struck her. The vehicle was operated by the daughter of the named insureds under the Erie Exchange Insurance policy. As with most homeowner’s policies, the Erie Exchange policy excluded coverage for bodily injury arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or use of a land motor vehicle. However, the policy exempted from the exclusion a vehicle if “they are a lawn or farm type vehicle or snowblower, wherever used or located, if not subject to motor vehicle registration.” Id. at ___, 870 S.E.2d at 717.
The court focused its analysis on whether the ATV was a “farm type vehicle” within the meaning of the exception. The court recognized that certain vehicles, such as tractors, possessed characteristics rendering them suitable for farm use as well as for purely recreational uses, such as hayrides. Evidence was presented at the trial level to support the assertion that an ATV could be used for both farm use and recreational use. The named insureds in the case before the court never used the vehicle in question as a farm vehicle and did not own any of the attachments that would allow for traditional farm usage. The fact that a particular vehicle possessed multi-use characteristics was insufficient to establish coverage.
A multi-use vehicle with potential for use on a farm is not a “farm type” vehicle. No evidence establishes that this ATV is designed for primary use as a farm vehicle like a combine or a tractor. To read “farm type vehicle” as encompassing any vehicle that could potentially be used on a farm would create an exception so broad it would render the limits on coverage meaningless.
Id. at ___, 870 S.E.2d at 719.