Dismissal of Class Action Against Title Insurer Upheld; Duty Alleged By Appellants’ Have No Support in Florida Law

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Bleich et al. v. Chicago Title Insurance Co.,
Third District Court of Appeal, Florida; Case number 3D12-1261
Plaintiffs Arthur Bleich and Gloris Elder (plaintiffs) appealed an award of summary judgment in favor of the defendant, Chicago Title Insurance Company (Chicago Title), dismissing the underlying class action lawsuit against Chicago Title for claims of overcharging for title insurance. The lower court granted summary judgment on the basis that Florida law did not require Chicago Title to search for homeowners’ prior insurance policies to see if they may qualify for a lower premium in a refinancing.

On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that Chicago Title had a duty to accept and retain pre-existing owners’ policies and reasonably review available records to determine if borrowers have qualifying pre-existing owners policies, and to protect eligible homeowners from being overcharged. The Court of Appeal rejected this argument and declined to reinstate the action, finding that the lower court correctly interpreted regulation 690-186.003(2) of the Florida Administrative Code, which provides conditions under which a homeowner may qualify for a lower premium on title insurance in a refinance transaction.

In its opinion the Court of Appeal noted that it was undisputed by both parties and the lower court that the regulation was unambiguous. The Court of Appeal found that the lower court properly found that there was no reasonable interpretation of the law which would require a search for homeowners’ prior insurance policies. The court held that “To so hold would require this court to look behind the face of the regulation for a legislative intent. This exceeds the scope of power granted to a court interpreting an unambiguous statute. To impose such a duty would also require this court to rewrite the regulation. That is not the function of the judiciary.”