Failure to Issue a Reservation of Rights, and to Address an Insured’s Affirmative Defenses in a Coverage Dispute, May Preclude Denial of an Otherwise Excluded Claim

A recent Florida state court opinion emphasizes the importance of an insurer’s obligations in the event of a liability claim against an insured and a subsequent coverage dispute with that insured.

In Hurchalla v. Homeowners Choice Property & Casualty Insurance Company, the insured was sued for tortious interference with business contracts. Although her liability policy did not insure against intentional acts, the insurer initially provided the insured with a defense. However, the insurer neglected to inform the insured that the defense was being provided …

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Florida’s Assignment of Benefits Reform Bill Becomes Law Ahead of Peak Hurricane Season

Florida’s new Assignment of Benefits (AOB) reform bill became law on July 1, 2019, a short time ahead of the peak of this year’s hurricane season. Time will tell if it results in the amelioration of the AOB litigation epidemic, fueled by Florida’s Attorney’s Fee Statute Section 627.428, awarding attorney’s fees to prevailing assignees in insurance disputes. The attorney’s fee statute is credited with having incentivized Florida contractors to litigate even minor differences[1] with insurers over repair work performed or proposed for insureds. Legal …

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A Primer On Appraisal in Florida First-Party Property Damage Claims

In the wake of Hurricane Irma and other recent natural disasters, Florida courts have weighed in on one of the most important tools for resolution of first-party property damage claims: appraisal. In this post, we will address multiple appraisal issues and how courts have ruled recently on those issues.

Failure to Timely Invoke Appraisal May Constitute Waiver

In Versailles Sur La Mer Condominium Assoc., Inc. v. Lexington Ins. Co., 2018 WL 3827154 (M.D. Fla. Jul. 24, 2018) the insured, a condominium association, submitted a …

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No Attorney’s Fees for Insured in Suit Relating to Selection of an Umpire for Appraisal for Florida First-Party Property Claims

In a recent first-party coverage claim, an insurer invoked its homeowner’s policy’s appraisal provision pre-suit when the parties could not agree on the scope of loss. The appraisal provision required both parties to select an appraiser, who were in turn required to agree mutually upon a neutral umpire for appraisal. The policy’s appraisal provision stated further that in the event the appraisers could not agree upon a neutral umpire, either party could initiate a legal action to request that the court appoint an umpire.  When …

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No Smoking! Pollution Exclusion Bars Coverage For Claims Arising Out of “Smoky” Beverage

While Florida courts have typically refused to limit pollution exclusions within insurance policies to traditional environmental claims, a District Court in Florida has extended the application of such exclusions even further by finding that a pollution exclusion applies to claims against a bar for injuries allegedly caused by an “exotic” cocktail served by the bar.

In Evanston Insurance Company v. Haven South Beach, LLC, et al., Case No. 15-20573 (S.D. Fla. Dec. 28, 2015), the insured, a bar, served an alcoholic drink infused …

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Insurer Required to Pay Policyholder Attorneys’ Fees Despite Policyholder Misrepresentations

The Florida Third District Court of Appeal found that an insurer was required to pay attorney fees that homeowners incurred during a coverage dispute despite a finding that the policyholders committed fraud. The Third District affirmed the lower court’s decision, finding that the insurer was required to pay the policyholders’ attorneys’ fees because the insurer lost its counter-claim against the policyholders. The court found that there was no exception for fraud.

In Citizens Property Insurance Corp. v. Bascuas, (Third District Court of Appeal, Florida, …

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New Law and a New Trial: Eleventh Circuit Overturns Florida Court Judgment Against GEICO in Bad Faith Lawsuit

On Wednesday, August 19, 2015 the Eleventh Circuit issued a significant ruling that allows evidence to be introduced at trial regarding previous decisions in that litigation, as well as changes in coverage law. In doing so, it vacated a $5 million bad faith judgment against GEICO General Insurance Co. (GEICO) from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

The lawsuit arises out of an automobile accident that occurred in 2006. The plaintiff represented the estate of a woman killed in that crash …

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Google ‘Adwords’ Advertisements Trademark Infringement, Not Slogan Infringement

In Auto Mobility Sales, Inc. v. Praetorian Insurance Co., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84777 (S.D. Fla. June 30, 2015), the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida held that an insurer had no duty to defend or indemnify its insured against allegations of trademark infringement resulting from the insured’s use of certain language in a Google ‘Adwords’ Advertisement.

Auto Mobility Sales, Inc. (AMS) sells and rents handicap-enabled vehicles. AMS was insured by a general liability insurance policy issued by Praetorian Insurance Company. …

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State-Created Insurance Entity Exempt from Florida’s First-Party Bad Faith Statute

In Citizens Property Insurance Corp. v. Perdido Sun Condominium Ass’n, the Florida Supreme Court was asked to decide “whether the Florida Legislature intended … [for] a state-created entity that provided property insurance to be liable for statutory first-party bad faith claims as an exception to its statutory immunity from suit.” After prevailing in a breach of contract action against Citizens, Perdido Sun sued Citizens for bad faith under Florida’s Section 624.155(1). Citizens sought to dismiss the bad faith complaint based upon its statutory immunity. …

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Breach of Reinsurance Contract and Bad Faith Claims Survive Dismissal, District Court Rules

In Old Republic National Title Insurance Co. v. First American Title Insurance Co., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44693, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida refused to dismiss portions of a cedent’s breach of contract claim, bad faith claim, and demand for declaratory judgment against a reinsurer. The reinsurance dispute arose when a cedent negotiated a $41 million settlement with the underlying insured, and the reinsurer paid its portion of the claim under a reservation of rights. After making its payment, …

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