Illinois Appellate Court Rules Man Killed on Lawnmower Not Entitled to Insurance Coverage

Gilbert Gail Gerth was riding his lawnmower down a street when he was rear-ended by a pickup truck. The incident killed Gerth. At the time of the collision, the defendant pickup owner and driver, Gary Sachau, was insured under an automobile insurance policy with a $30,000 liability limit.

Gerth had an automobile insurance policy as well with an underinsured-motorist liability limit of $100,000 per person.  In addition, Gerth had an umbrella insurance policy with Grinnell Select Insurance Co. with an underinsured-motorist liability limit of $1 million per accident.

Dawn Goldstein, the executor of the estate for Gilbert Gerth, settled the claim against Sachau for $30,000, and her underinsured claim against Hartford for $100,000 minus $30,000 recovered from the settlement with Sachau.

Grinnell Select denied coverage under its policy. Grinnell claimed that the incident fell under an exclusion in the automobile liability policy, which stated that Grinnell Select would not provide underinsured motorist coverage for injuries sustained “by [Gerth] while ‘occupying,’ or when struck by, any motor vehicle owned by [Gerth] which is not insured for this coverage under this policy.”

Grinnell argued that the riding lawnmower constituted an uninsured motor vehicle which Gerth was occupying at the time he was killed. The executor for Gerth’s estate argued that the exclusion did not apply because the riding lawnmower was not a “motor vehicle” under the terms of the policy.

The circuit court judge agreed with Grinnell on that point and dismissed the case on motion. The executor of the Gerth estate appealed. The appellate court wrote that this was a case of first impression in Illinois. Goldstein argued that because a riding lawnmower is not a “vehicle designed for use on public highways and not required to be registered in the state” it was not a motor vehicle for purposes of the insurance contract.

She also argued that the section in the Illinois Vehicle Code defining all-terrain vehicles and recreational off-highway vehicles “specifically exclude lawnmowers as equipment” suggesting that they are not vehicles. The appellate court disagreed stating that the exclusion for lawnmowers generally, not “riding lawnmowers” which are not the same type of machine.

The appellate court concluded that a riding lawnmower is a motor vehicle for the purposes of the exemption and affirmed the circuit court judge’s decision that denied coverage under the Grinnell Select underinsurance policy.

Estate of Gilbert Gerth v. Grinnell Select Insurance Co., 2016 IL App (1st) 140317.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling truck accident cases, automobile crash cases, rear-end crash cases, bicycle accident cases, motorcycle accident cases, pedestrian accident cases and wrongful death cases for individuals and families who have been injured or killed by the negligence of another for more than 40 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and surrounding areas including, Schaumburg, Mount Prospect, Arlington Heights, Rolling Meadows, Evanston, Schiller Park, Calumet City, Antioch, Gurnee, South Barrington, Berwyn and Lincolnshire, Ill.

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