Articles Posted in Florida Supreme Court

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A hospital provided medical services to twenty-nine insureds who were injured in motor vehicle accidents. After paying the hospital, the insurer requested certain documentation relating to the reasonableness of the charges pursuant to Fla. Stat. 627.736(6)(b). The hospital provided the insurer with various documents but refused to furnish copies of third-party contracts containing negotiated discount rates between the hospital and other insurers and payers, arguing that the information was not covered by subsection (6)(b). The insurer filed a petition pursuant to Fla. Stat. 627.736(6)(c) asking the trial court to compel discovery of the withheld information. The trial court ordered the hospital to produce the requested discovery. The court of appeal reversed, concluding that the trial court’s order exceeded the scope of discovery permissible under sections 627.736(6)(b) and (c). Specifically, the court ruled that discovery of facts under section 627.736(6)(c) is limited to the production of the documents described in section 627.736(6)(b). The Supreme Court approved the court of appeal’s interpretation of the scope of discovery under section 627.736(6)(c), holding that the scope of permissible discovery under subsection (6)(c) is limited to the production of documents described in subsection (6)(b). View "State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Shands Jacksonville Medical Center, Inc." on Justia Law

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Orthopedic Specialists and various medical service providers challenged reimbursements made by Allstate Insurance Company under personal injury protection no-fault insurance policies issued to Allstate’s insureds, arguing that Allstate’s policy was ambiguous as to whether Allstate had elected to reimburse the Providers in accordance with the Medicare fee schedules provided for in Fla. Stat. 627.736(5)(a)2. The Fourth District held that the policy language was not legally sufficient to authorize Allstate to apply the Medicare fee schedules. The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the Fourth District and approved the decision of the First District in Allstate Fire & Casualty Insurance v. Stand-Up MRI of Tallahassee, P.A., holding that Allstate’s insurance policy provides legally sufficient notice of Allstate’s election to use the permissive Medicare fee schedules identified in section 627.736(5)(a)2 to limit reimbursements. View "Allstate Insurance Co. v. Orthopedic Specialists" on Justia Law

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In 2005, John Sebo purchased a home. American Home Assurance Company (AHAC) provided homeowners insurance as of the date of the purchase. It later became clear that the house suffered from major design and construction defects when water began to intrude during rainstorms. Hurricane Wilma further damaged the residence. AHAC denied coverage for most of the claimed losses. Sebo sued AHAC seeking a declaration that the policy provided coverage for his damages. The jury found in favor of Sebo, and the trial court entered judgment against AHAC. The Second District Court of Appeal reversed and remanded for a new trial, concluding that coverage did not exist under Sebo’s all-risk policy when multiple perils combined to create a loss and at least one of the perils was excluded by the terms of the policy. The Supreme Court quashed the Second District’s opinion, holding that the plain language of the policy did not preclude recovery in this case. View "Sebo v. American Home Assurance Co." on Justia Law

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Insureds, who owned a policy from Insurer, alleged that Insurer failed to pay them for damage to their home from sinkhole loss, thus breaching the terms of the insurance policy. When Insurer became insolvent, Florida Insurance Guaranty Association (FIGA) was activated to handle the “covered claims.” The circuit court ordered appraisal, and the appraisers determined the amount of loss to be $130,600. FIGA objected to the confirmation of the appraisal award, arguing that the statutory definition of “covered claim” in effect when Insurer was adjudicated insolvent should govern any payments made on the claim, thus prohibiting any direct payment to Insureds for their sinkhole loss. The circuit court confirmed the appraisal award and entered judgment in favor of Insureds in the amount of $130,600, concluding that Insureds’ rights to recover against FIGA for sinkhole loss were established when Insurer issued the insurance policy. The Second District Court of Appeal reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the definition of “covered claim” in effect on the date that Insurer was adjudicated to be insolvent governed the scope of FIGA’s liability to Insureds for the sinkhole loss at their property; and (2) Insureds were precluded from obtaining an appraisal award for their sinkhole loss directly from FIGA under the terms of the policy. View "de la Fuente v. Florida Insurance Guaranty Ass’n" on Justia Law

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Johnson was covered under a homeowner’s insurance policy issued by Omega when she filed a claim to recover damages resulting from conditions which she believed to be sinkhole activity. After an initial sinkhole investigation determining that there was no sinkhole activity present on Johnson’s property, Omega denied Johnson’s claim. Johnson filed suit against Omega for breach of contract. In response, Omega hired another expert to perform an additional evaluation. The expert agreed that sinkhole activity was present on Johnson’s property. Omega accepted the evaluation report and provided payment for the damages. At issue before the trial court was whether Johnson was entitled to attorney’s fees. The trial court concluded that Omega’s agreement to pay money to Johnson amounted to a confession of judgment and awarded Johnson attorney’s fees under Fla. Stat. 627.428. The Fifth District Court of Appeal reversed, concluding that Omega did not act wrongfully or in bad faith, and therefore, section 627.428 and the confession of judgment doctrine did not apply. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below, holding that a recovery for attorney’s fees under section 627.428 requires an incorrect denial of benefits by the insurance company, not a bad faith denial. View "Johnson v. Omega Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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This case involved a dispute over the validity of three stranger-originated life insurance (STOLI) policies. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit certified two questions of Florida law to the Supreme Court that were determinative of the case and for which there appeared to be no controlling precedent. The certified questions involved two Florida statutes: Fla. Stat. 627.404(1), requiring that an insurable interest exist at the inception of each life insurance policy, and Fla. Stat. 627.455, providing that an insurance policy is incontestable two years after its issuance. STOLI transactions offer an insured (often an elderly one) “free” or “risk-free” insurance in exchange for transferring the policy to the investor after the two-year incontestability period has expired. The Supreme Court answered that a party cannot challenge the validity of a life insurance policy after the two-year contestability period established by section 627.455 because it is created through a STOLI scheme. View "Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Pruco Life Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Petitioner was injured in an automobile accident with an underinsured motorist. Petitioner filed a claim with his insurer (Insurer) for the limits of his uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM) policy of $50,000. After Insurer refused to pay, Petitioner filed a complaint against Insurer to determine liability under the UM policy and the full extent of his damages. Prior to trial, Insurer tendered a check to Petitioner for $50,000 and filed a confession of judgment for that amount. Petitioner opposed the entry of a confessed judgment, arguing that a jury verdict would determine the upper limits of Insurer’s potential liability under a future bad faith claim. The trial court denied Insurer’s motion to confess judgment. After a trial, the jury set Petitioner’s damages at $1 million. The court of appeal vacated the jury’s verdict, concluding that after Insurer confessed judgment in the amount of $50,000, Petitioner’s UM action became moot. The Supreme Court quashed the court of appeal’s decision, holding (1) an insured is entitled to a determination of liability and the full extent of his damages in a UM action before filing a first-party bad faith action; and (2) that determination of damages is generally binding, as an element of damages, in a subsequent first-party bad faith action. Remanded. View "Fridman v. Safeco Ins. Co. of Ill." on Justia Law

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Luke Joerg (“Luke”) was a developmentally disabled adult who had lived with his parents his entire life and had never worked. Luke was struck by a car in 2007. John Joerg (“Joerg”), Luke’s father, filed an action against State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, Joerg’s uninsured motorist carrier. Joerg filed a motion in limine to exclude evidence of any collateral source benefits to which Luke was entitled, including discounted benefits under Medicare and Medicaid. The trial court precluded State Farm from introducing evidence of Luke’s future Medicare or Medicaid benefits. The jury awarded a total of $1,491,875 in damages, including $469,076 for future medical expenses. The Second District Court of Appeal reversed the award for future damages, concluding that Luke’s Medicare benefits should not have been excluded by the collateral source rule. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below, holding that the trial court properly excluded evidence of Luke’s eligibility for future benefits from Medicare, Medicaid, and other social legislation as collateral sources. View "Joerg v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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After Plaintiff was rear-ended by an underinsured motorist (UM), Plaintiff requested her $100,000 UM policy limits from State Farm. Plaintiff indicated that her damages were estimated to be $3.5 million because she suffered from reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome. State Farm responded that Plaintiff must schedule a compulsory medical examination (CME) pursuant to the terms of the policy. Plaintiff refused to attend a CME and instead filed suit against State Farm. The trial court entered judgment against State Farm for the UM policy limits. The court of appeal affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff breached the contract when she failed to attend the CME; but (2) State Farm must plead and prove prejudice to avoid liability based on noncompliance with the CME clause, and State Farm failed to meet its burden in this case. The Supreme Court approved of the court of appeal’s decision, holding (1) the forfeiture of benefits under a UM policy will not automatically result upon an insured’s breach of a CME provision unless the insurer pleads and proves actual prejudice as an element of its affirmative defense; and (2) the undisputed facts demonstrate that State Farm was not prejudiced in this case. View "State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Curran" on Justia Law

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ICI Homes, Inc. (ICI) had a general liability insurance policy with General Fidelity Insurance Company. In 2007, Katherine Ferrin, the owner of a residence constructed by ICI, was injured while using stairs installed by Custom Cutting, Inc. Ferrin filed suit against ICI. ICI, in turn, sought indemnification from Custom Cutting. The parties agreed to a $1.6 million settlement of Ferrin’s claim. ICI accepted $1 million from Custom Cutting’s insurer to settle its indemnification claim, which it paid to Ferrin. ICI and General Fidelity then claimed the other was responsible for paying Ferrin the remaining $600,000. Both parties paid $300,000 to Ferrin to settle Ferrin’s claim. ICI then filed suit against General Fidelity seeking return of the $300,000 ICI paid above the $1 million indemnification payment. General Fidelity counterclaimed seeking return of the $300,000 it had paid to Ferrin. The district court entered judgment for General Fidelity. The court of appeals certified two questions to the Supreme Court for resolution. The Supreme Court answered (1) the General Fidelity policy allowed ICI to apply indemnification payments received from Custom Cutting’s insurer towards satisfaction of its $1 million self-insured retention; and (2) the transfer of rights provision in the policy did not abrogate the made whole doctrine. View "Intervest Constr. of Jax, Inc. v Gen. Fidelity Ins. Co." on Justia Law