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Florida Insurance Defense Litigation Update–August 2017

Florida Insurance Matters is a monthly update on Florida Insurance Defense Litigation-related legal developments by the Colodny Fass Insurance Litigation Practice, recognized as the “Insurance Litigation Department of the Year in South Florida” by the Daily Business Review.

 

Attorneys’ Fees Claims Denied Due to Ambiguous General Release

Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal (DCA) recently affirmed a jury verdict of “no coverage” in favor of Citizens Property Insurance Corporation (Citizens), but upheld the trial court’s denial of Citizens’ claim for attorneys’ fees that found the general release attached to the proposal for settlement to be ambiguous.  Although the Third DCA did not explain the reasons why the release was ambiguous, the trial court held the proposal was ambiguous since the release covered all unknown, unanticipated, and unsuspected claims for damages in the future, and required the releasor to be responsible for the replacement and repairs of all items to the satisfaction of the mortgagee.

Link to Case:   Waterview Condominium Assoc. Inc. v. Citizens Prop. Ins. Corp., August 9, 2017 (3d DCA).

Colodny Fass Florida Insurance Lawyers’ Take on This Case: 

Drafting an unambiguous release to support an enforceable proposal for settlement is not an easy task.  Consider whether a release is necessary or whether a dismissal of the lawsuit with prejudice will sufficiently protect the insurer from subsequent lawsuits.

 

Appraisal Demand Does Not Toll the Time to Cure a Civil Remedy Notice (CRN)

In a covered sinkhole loss case where the parties’ dispute was over the cost of repairs, State Farm Insurance Company was successful in compelling appraisal. However, the insured previously filed a civil remedy notice (CRN) that had expired before the appraisal process was concluded.  After the appraisal concluded, State Farm paid the award (policy limits), and the insured then sued for bad faith.  State Farm argued the CRN was not valid when filed since appraisal had not concluded.  The trial court entered summary judgment for State Farm, but the Fifth District Court of Appeal reversed the ruling, holding that nothing in the statute or case law precludes an insured from filing a CRN while a demand for appraisal is outstanding. The Court also said that a demand for appraisal does not “toll” the filing of a CRN.  Thus, the bad faith case was remanded to proceed to a trial on its merits.

Link to Case:   Landers v. State Farm Ins. Co., August 11, 2017 (5th DCA).

Colodny Fass Florida Insurance Lawyers’ Take on This Case:  

When appraisal is invoked, do not lose track of the claim and be vigilant about pursuing a swift resolution.

If a CRN is filed, the 60 days are meant to cure violations, including claim delays–the filing signals the insurer’s obligation to expedite appraisal and promptly act on delays–including delays caused by the insured’s own actions or inaction.

 

 

Florida Insurance LawyerAbout Amy L. Koltnow

Amy L. Koltnow, a Colodny Fass Shareholder, focuses her practice on insurance disputes–from trial through appeals.  She has represented insurance companies in federal and state courts, as well as in mediation and administrative forums.  Ms. Koltnow oversees complex litigation matters and has successfully defended numerous class actions and insurance bad faith cases. She is a member of the Claims and Litigation Management Alliance, a national, invitation-only organization committed to furthering high standards of litigation and claims management in pursuit of client defense.

To view Ms. Koltnow’s complete professional biography, click here.

Contact Amy at akoltnow@colodnyfass.com or (954) 492-4010.