Justia Insurance Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
Pelaez v. Government Employees Insurance Co.
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of GEICO and its rejection of claimant's attempt to obtain a $14,900,000 bad faith judgment from the insurer. The court concluded that, under the totality of the circumstances, no reasonable jury could conclude that GEICO acted in bad faith before, during, or after sending the proposed release to claimant. The court noted that it was not allowing GEICO to escape liability merely because claimant and his attorney's actions could have contributed to the failure to settle. Rather, the court discussed claimant and his attorney's actions because they show how, in the totality of these circumstances, GEICO did fulfill its good faith duty to the driver and his mother. The court explained that they show how the failure to settle the lawsuit against the insureds did not result from bad faith of the insurer. View "Pelaez v. Government Employees Insurance Co." on Justia Law
National Trust Insurance Co. v. Southern Heating and Cooling Inc.
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's order dismissing National Trust's federal declaratory judgment action without prejudice. Plaintiff filed a wrongful death action against Southern Heating and others in Alabama state court after his parents died from carbon monoxide poisoning. National Trust, Southern Heating's insurer, filed suit in federal court seeking a declaration that it has no duty to defend or indemnify Southern Heating because there is no coverage under its policy. The district court found that the Alabama state court action was parallel to the federal declaratory judgment action and that the non-exhaustive guideposts set out in Ameritas Variable Life Ins. Co. v. Roach, 411 F.3d 1328, 1331 (11th Cir. 2005), weighed in favor of not hearing National Trust's action.The court concluded that, when relevant, the degree of similarity between concurrent state and federal proceedings is a significant consideration in deciding whether to entertain an action under the Declaratory Judgment Act. In this case, the district court properly took into account that similarity in its consideration of the Ameritas guideposts. The court explained that the district court's perspective may not be the only way to view the two proceedings at issue, but it is a permissible way to look at them, and that is enough to constitute a reasonable exercise of discretion. View "National Trust Insurance Co. v. Southern Heating and Cooling Inc." on Justia Law
The Travelers Indemnity Company of Connecticut v. Richard McKenzie & Sons, Inc.
In the underlying action, a citrus grove owner filed suit against defendant in Florida state court, alleging claims for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and an equitable accounting. Almost a year later, and two days after finding out that defendant had an insurance policy issued by Travelers, the owner moved to amend the complaint to add a claim for negligence. After the motion was granted, Travelers disclaimed coverage. In state court litigation, the owner and defendant entered into a settlement agreement.Travelers filed this declaratory judgment action seeking a declaration that, based on the insurance policy's provision, it had not duty to defend or indemnify defendant against the owner's claims. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Travelers. The court concluded that, because the insurance policy excluded coverage for the damages alleged in the owner's amended state court complaint, Travelers had no duty to defend or indemnify, and the Coblentz agreement is unenforceable for that reason. View "The Travelers Indemnity Company of Connecticut v. Richard McKenzie & Sons, Inc." on Justia Law
St. Louis Condominium Association, Inc. v. Rockhill Insurance Co.
The Association sought to recover for the damage caused by Hurricane Irma from its insurer, Rockhill. After Rockhill denied coverage and the parties went to trial before a jury, the Association received a little over $2.6 million—a fraction of the $16 million it initially asked for. Both parties appealed, Rockhill challenged the final judgment entered in favor of the Association, and the Association challenged the damages award.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, concluding that it need not discuss the merits of Rockhill's summary judgment challenge because the court's precedent clearly bars review of an order denying summary judgment after a full trial and judgment on the merits. In regard to the three remaining issues on appeal, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion by striking Rockhill's expert; the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying Rockhill's Daubert motion; and Rockhill did not preserve its challenge to the denial of its motion for judgment as a matter of law.In regard to the Association's cross-appeal, the court concluded that the evidence is sufficient to support the jury's preexisting damage finding. The court also concluded that Rockhill's failure to comply with Florida Statute 627.701(2) does not render the hurricane deductible unenforceable. View "St. Louis Condominium Association, Inc. v. Rockhill Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Eres v. Progressive American Insurance Co.
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Progressive in a third-party bad-faith action brought by plaintiff. Plaintiff claimed that Progressive was collaterally estopped by a previous action against the driver of the vehicle that hit plaintiff's vehicle, permanently injuring her and killing her son, from arguing that it had no opportunity to settle her claims within policy limits.Applying Florida law, the court concluded that, at bottom, it agreed with the district court's endorsement of the magistrate judge's detailed and well-reasoned factual findings and legal conclusions that Progressive did not act in bad faith. In this case, the day that Progressive learned of the accident, it concluded that it should offer the full bodily-injury policy limits to plaintiff and her son's estate; while the driver's criminal proceedings were ongoing, Progressive stayed in touch with plaintiff, informing her that it was ready to settle at her discretion; and after receiving plaintiff's counsel's unilateral offer to settle, Progressive's claims examiner, in-house counsel, and outside counsel promptly moved to satisfy his time-limited demands. The court explained that, under Florida law, an overbroad release can create a factual dispute regarding bad faith, but the totality of the circumstances and Progressive's release did not support a finding that Progressive acted in bad faith. View "Eres v. Progressive American Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Estate of Malkin v. Wells Fargo Bank, NA
In this dispute over an illegal stranger-originated life insurance (STOLI) policy, the district court found that the AIG Policy at issue lacked an insurable interest at its inception and was therefore void under Delaware Code Annotated Title 18, 2704(a), which, in relevant part, governs the purchase of a life insurance policy on the life of another person.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decision allowing the Estate to recover the policy's proceeds under section 2704(b) and finding that the policy was void. However, the court reversed the district court's decision to strike Berkshire's counterclaims for fraudulent and negligent misrepresentations. The court deferred its decision on the remaining issues in this case pending certification of two questions to the Supreme Court of Delaware. The court stated that Berkshire may be entitled to the premiums it paid and the district court erred by striking its misrepresentation counterclaims. The court reserved judgment on the questions of whether the district court properly calculated prejudgment interest to which the Estate is entitled. View "Estate of Malkin v. Wells Fargo Bank, NA" on Justia Law
Travelers Property Casualty Company of America v. Ocean Reef Charters LLC
The district court held on summary judgment that, under Eleventh Circuit precedent, federal maritime law requires strict compliance with captain and crew warranties in a marine insurance policy. The district court concluded that, because Ocean Reef breached those warranties, there was no coverage for the loss of its yacht under a policy issued by Travelers.The Eleventh Circuit applied Wilburn Boat Co. v. Firearm’s Fund Ins. Co., 348 U.S. 310, 316 (1955), and concluded that there does not exist entrenched federal maritime rules governing captain or crew warranties in this case. Therefore, Florida law applies to determine the effect of Ocean Reef's breaches. The court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Travelers Property Casualty Company of America v. Ocean Reef Charters LLC" on Justia Law
MSP Recovery Claims, Series LLC v. The Hanover Insurance Co.
This appeal consolidates seven separate cases that three related corporate entities, MSP, originally filed in Florida state court against seventeen insurance companies. The district court granted MSP's motions to remand but declined to order the insurance companies to pay MSP's attorney's fees and costs.The Eleventh Circuit concluded that it does not have jurisdiction over the cross-appeals brought by Travelers, Northland, and Owners insurance companies. In this case, the remand orders fall within the scope of 28 U.S.C. 1447(c) and are unreviewable. Therefore, the court dismissed the cross-appeals for lack of jurisdiction. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying MSP's motions for attorney's fees and costs. The court held that it is not an abuse of discretion for a district judge to decline to award attorney's fees and costs under section 1447(c) simply because that judge or other district court judges within the same district have previously remanded in similar cases. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's orders. View "MSP Recovery Claims, Series LLC v. The Hanover Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Mack v. USAA Casualty Insurance Co.
Plaintiff filed suit against USAA on behalf of himself and a putative class for declaratory judgments that USAA's method to calculate insurance payments was inconsistent with Florida law and the insurance policy.The Eleventh Circuit concluded that plaintiff does not have standing to seek prospective relief on the off chance that he might total a car again in the future. The court further concluded that plaintiff's request for supplemental relief does not change the standing analysis for a declaratory judgment claim. Therefore, the court concluded that plaintiff does not have standing to bring his declaratory judgment claims, vacated the district court's order of dismissal, and remanded to the district court with instructions that the district court remand the case back to state court. View "Mack v. USAA Casualty Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Quintero v. Geico Marine Insurance Co.
After plaintiff's boat was stolen, Geico denied coverage based on plaintiff's misrepresentation that he was in possession of the boat. On appeal, plaintiff argued that the district court erred in applying the doctrine of uberrimae fidei.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Geico and denial of plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment. The court held that plaintiff's misrepresentation voided his policy ab initio. Based on the record, the court concluded that plaintiff's initial policy, by its terms, expired on May 5, 2018, because he did not pay the required premium for the new policy period. Therefore, plaintiff's boat was uninsured between May 5, 2018, and when he first called Geico on May 25, 2018. Although plaintiff is correct that the doctrine of uberrimae fidei applies only when an insurer issues a policy, not when a policy is already in full force, his policy was not in full force on May 25th because it had expired. The court also concluded that plaintiff's statements were material to Geico's issuance of coverage on May 25, even if by renewal and backdating. Therefore, the district court properly applied the doctrine of uberrimae fidei and correctly held that plaintiff's renewal policy was void ab initio. View "Quintero v. Geico Marine Insurance Co." on Justia Law