Technological innovations continue to raise novel questions before the state’s highest court. The New Jersey Supreme recently granted certification in Goyco vs. Progressive Insurance Co., which asks whether a person riding an electric scooter qualifies as a “pedestrian” for the purposes of a personal injury lawsuit.
Facts of the Case
The dispute arise froman accident in which an automobile struck plaintiff David Goyco while he was operating a low-speed electric scooter (LSES). According to court documents, on November 22, 2021, plaintiff was operating a Segway Ninebot KickScooter Max when he was struck by an automobile on West Grand Street in Elizabeth. As a result of the accident, Goyco sustained injuries and incurred medical expenses for his treatments.
At the time of the accident, plaintiff was insured under an automobile insurance policy issued by defendant, Progressive Insurance Company (Progressive). The policy provided No-Fault Benefits Coverage (NFBC) pursuant to N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4. On November 22, 2021, plaintiff filed a claim with Progressive for PIP benefits.
Progressive denied plaintiff’s claim, citing that New Jersey No-Fault benefits are only available if the accident involves a qualifying automobile, and the Segway Ninebot Scooter he was occupying at the time of the accident does not meet the definition of a qualifying automobile pursuant to [N.J.S.A.] 39:6A- 2(a) of the New Jersey Auto Insurance Law. The insurer further maintained that pursuant to N.J.S.A. 39:6A-2(h) of the New Jersey Auto Insurance Law, the Segway Ninebot Scooter Goyco was occupying at the time of the accident disqualifies him from meeting the definition of a pedestrian, as “pedestrian” is defined as “any person who is not occupying, entering into, or alighting from a vehicle propelled by other than muscular power and designed primarily for use on highways, rails and tracks.” Goyco subsequently filed suit, challenging the denial.
Appellate Division’s Decision
The trial court dismissed the complaint, and the Appellate Division affirmed. It held that New Jersey’s definition of pedestrian expressly excludes LSES like Goyco was riding at the time of the accident. “Here, it is clear that an LSES is a vehicle propelled by other than muscular power,” the court wrote. “Our determination is grounded in the text of N.J.S.A. 39:1-1, which defines an LSES—in part—as having ‘an electric motor that is capable of propelling the device with or without human propulsion.’”
The Appellate Division further concluded that even if it were to find N.J.S.A. 39:4-14.16(g) allowed it to equate an LSES operator with a bicycle, the statute’s exception defeated Goyco’s argument. The exception provides: “[A]ll statutes …rules and regulations applicable to bicycles. . .shall apply to [an LSES] except those provisions which by their very nature may have no application to…[an LSES].”
Issues Before the NJ Supreme Court
The New Jersey Supreme Court granted certification on October 6, 2023. The justices have agreed to consider the following question: “Is plaintiff, who was operating a low-speed electric scooter at the time of the accident, a ‘pedestrian’ under N.J.S.A. 39:6A-2(h), and therefore entitled to Personal Injury Protection benefits?”
Oral arguments have not yet been scheduled. Please check back for updates.