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  1. Transportation

State agency approves of Uber's insurance in court filing

Published Oct. 30, 2015

TAMPA — Uber is one step closer to operating here legally now that the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has filed a document saying the company's insurance policies meet state requirements.

The validity of the rideshare company's insurance has been a major sticking point since Uber started operating in Tampa in April 2014.

In 2014, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation said the rideshare company's policy provided legally binding coverage. But FOIR then deferred to the department of highway safety on whether the policy, when combined with a personal auto policy held by the driver, would provide the coverage necessary under the Florida Financial Responsibility Law.

Until now, the department has refused to say whether the rideshare company's policy checks all the right boxes under Florida law. But a court filing this week in the 2nd judicial circuit court of Leon County appears to provide some clarity.

"Uber has produced two liability insurance policies which meet the insurance requirements of Florida law," said the document, submitted by DHSMV attorneys Stephen Hurm, Damaris Reynolds and Nicholas Merlin.

The comment was made in a motion asking the court to dismiss a lawsuit filed in September by Tallahassee-based Capitol Transportation and Broward County's B & L Services.

The department, however, is refusing to elaborate.

"The Department is responsible for enforcing any state statute that oversees financial responsibility for motor vehicles under the provisions of the current law," spokeswoman Alexis Bakofsky said in an email. "The Department will follow the requirements of any law that is passed."

Bakofsky, who did not return phone calls, said the department can't provide further comment.

The confusion has left Uber in an undefined gray zone — not in compliance with Florida law but not quite illegal, either — for the past year and a half.

And the state's refusal to deal with Uber has made the local situation murky: Uber and Hillsborough County regulators are still at odds over whether drivers comply with rules that govern for-hire vehicles.

Uber declined to comment, saying this is a pending legal matter.

Contact Caitlin Johnston at cjohnston@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3401. Follow @cljohnst.

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