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Darren Kies Jan. 27, 2021

In a case decided today (Friday, September 18, 2020), by the Alabama Supreme Court, they ruled that a term in a Nationwide insurance policy was not well defined and ruled against Nationwide.

Aaron Kyle Steward sued Nationwide Property and Casualty Insurance Company, seeking uninsured-motorist benefits after he was injured in an accident at a publicly owned and operated all-terrain-vehicle (“ATV”) park in Talladega. The trial court found in Steward’s favor, ruling that the ATV that collided with the one on which he was riding was an “uninsured motor vehicle” for purposes of Steward’s automobile-insurance policies with Nationwide. Nationwide appealed.

The question for the Supreme Court was “[w]hether the road (on which the ATV collision which was the subject of this litigation occurred) … is a ‘public road[,’] as contrasted to a private road.”

Nationwide argued that the roads were not public because they were not accessible to the public without paying a fee and signing a waiver. Steward contended that the roads were public because they were publicly owned, were maintained using public funds, and were open to the public for recreational purposes.

it was undisputed that the roads were publicly owned, publicly maintained, and publicly accessible on certain conditions.

The Court decided that Steward’s interpretation of “public roads” was reasonable, and concluded that the term in the insurance policy was ambiguous, and the ambiguity must be resolved in Plaintiff’s favor.

Therefore, the roads in question were found ot be “public roads” for purposes of the policies, and because Bowen’s ATV was being operated on them at the time of Steward’s injury, the ATV was an uninsured motor vehicle.

Because the Alabama Supreme Court concluded that the roads on which the accident occurred were “public roads” under the policies, they affirmed the decision of the trial court.