The District Court of Appeal of Florida, Third District, recently issued several rulings relevant to insurance carriers, particularly those providing coverage for property loss. In Zurich American Insurance Company v. Puccini, LLC, the court addressed whether an insurer may maintain a subrogation action against a tenant not named in its insurance policy with the landlord of the property at issue. Then in People’s Trust Insurance Company v. Garcia, the court addressed the appropriateness of compelling appraisal based on causations being a question of coverage, and therefore, for the court or one of amount of loss, and instead, for the appraisers. Similarly, in Safepoint Insurance Company v. Gomez, the court addressed whether the court properly compelled the parties to continue appraisal when the insurer terminated the appraisal process after the insurer had already invoked appraisal pursuant to the terms of the insurance policy and the appraisal process had already commenced.
The Florida Supreme Court is soon to narrate the next chapter in the saga of the validity of “Assignment of Benefits” insurance policy provisions in the state. In September 2018, an insurer secured trial court and intermediate appeals court rulings backing its position that an assignment of benefits by a homeowner, to a water-damage repair contractor, was invalid because the assignment did not comply with the language of the policy. The insurer argued, and the courts agreed, it was not required to pay the contractor because the assignment lacked required pre-approval from both policyholders and the mortgagee. In late 2018, the Florida Supreme Court agreed to review the holding.1
Highland Stucco and Lime Products, Inc. v. Silverio Onorato et al.
43 Fla. L. Weekly D2579a (Fla. 3d DCA, November 21, 2018).
The defendant Highland Stucco and Lime Products, Inc. (“Highland”) appealed an order denying its motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. On review, the Third District Court of Appeals reversed the order because the plaintiffs, Silverio Onorato (“Onorato”) and Faye Onorato (collectively, “the plaintiffs”) failed to satisfy the “minimum contacts” federal constitutional due process requirement.  The opinion provides an opportunity to review and discuss the procedural requirements that must be met by a plaintiff in Florida seeking to satisfy personal jurisdiction over a defendant.
It happens in almost every negligence case. A plaintiff sues a defendant (or multiple defendants) asserting a claim for damages. At some point, one or both of the parties will serve a Proposal for Settlement, offering to settle the case at a specific monetary amount in exchange for a release and dismissal of all claims. Oftentimes, these Proposals are rejected and a verdict is rendered in favor of one of the parties. In such an event, the court will be asked to evaluate the offering party’s Proposal and ask for an order shifting attorney’s fees. Is your Proposal for Settlement valid?
Arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution in which the parties agree to resolve their case outside of a traditional courtroom by going before an arbitrator who will hear the dispute and issue a binding decision. In most cases arbitration is quicker and less financially costly than litigation, and the proceedings can be kept private. More and more, businesses are choosing to include arbitration agreements within their contracts in order to take advantage of the many benefits.
September 2018 ushered in a conflicting validity interpretation of “anti-assignment of benefits” provisions in homeowners’ insurance policies between Florida’s Fourth and Fifth District Courts of Appeals. In 2017, Florida’s Fifth District held that clauses prohibiting the assignment of benefits post-lost without the consent of all insureds and the mortgagee are invalid on the grounds of public policy. (Security First Insurance Co. v. Florida Office or Insurance Regulation, 232 So. 3d 1157 (Fla. 5th DCA 2017).). In September 2018, however, the Fourth District disagreed with its sister court by holding that such consent requirements are, in fact, enforceable based on parties’ freedom to contract with one another, and the legislature is the more appropriate venue for determining issues of public policy. (Restoration 1 of Port St. Luce v. Ark Royal Insurance Company, No. 4D17-1113 (Fla. 4th DCA 2018).).
In Florida, compensation to employees for on-the-job accidents is regulated by a series of statutes, known collectively as the Workers’ Compensation Law (“WCL”). (Fla. Stat., § 440.01, et seq.) The WCL provides the sole remedy for an injured employee to recover for the harm caused to him or her by the negligence of others while performing their duties. (Fla. Stat., § 440.11(1); see generally Bakerman v. The Bombay Co., Inc., 961 So.2d 259 (Fla. 2007).). In exchange for this streamlined guarantee of compensation, employers are provided with immunity from civil suit by the employee, unless one of two exceptions are met: (1) the employer has failed to secure workers’ compensation coverage for its employees; or (2) the employer causes the employee’s injury through an intentional tort. (Fla. Stat., § 440.11(1)(a)-(b).).
In a 4-3 decision, the Florida Supreme Court settled the ongoing uncertainty regarding the Frye vs. Daubert expert evidence standard. The Court determined a 2013 legislative revision to the Florida Evidence Code was unconstitutional and infringed on the Court’s rule-making authority. The result is a clear statement of the so-called Frye standard as the governing analysis for admissibility.
Suzanne Harvey v. GEICO General Insurance Company, 43 Fla. L. Weekly S375a
The critical inquiry in a bad faith claim is whether the insurer diligently, and with the same haste and precision as if it were in the insured’s shoes, worked on the insured’s behalf to avoid an excess judgment. In a 4-3 decision, Florida’s Supreme Court reversed an Appellate Court’s “misapplication” of Florida’s bad faith precedent, concluding the court below erred in holding the evidence was insufficient to show the insurer acted in bad faith in failing to settle the insured’s claim.
In Florida, a civil lawsuit may be brought as a result of the death of an individual caused by the willful or negligent conduct of another. Wrongful death actions differ from your typical negligence action with regard to standing requirements and recoverable damages. This article discusses the elements of a wrongful death cause of action, and the damages available to the plaintiff.
Prior to working at Tyson & Mendes, I worked as part of an in-house counsel team for a large auto insurance company in California. While I was able to relish in every attorney’s dream of not having to worry about billable hours, the relationship I had with the insurance company’s policyholder was a little different. I had to take into consideration why certain cases were settled for financial reasons instead of advocating for the policyholder’s desires to take a case to trial out of “principle.” My representation became not only about providing the best legal representation I could for the policyholder and my employer, but also to keep in mind what the “bottom line” was.