Florida Appeals Court Case Highlights Importance of Post-Loss Obligations
On August 30th, 2017, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal issued a decision in the case of Siegel v. Tower Hill Signature Insurance Company. Initially, a lower court had ruled against the homeowners (the Siegels) on the grounds that they failed to comply with some of the post-loss obligations contained within their insurance policy.
However, the Appeals court disagreed with this lower court ruling, and remanded the case for further fact-finding. In this post, our experienced Fort Lauderdale first party coverage dispute attorneys analyze the case and explain why compliance with your policy’s post-loss obligations is so important.
Case Background: The Property Damage
In May of 2015, a drain line collapsed in the Siegels’ home in Miami-Dade County, Florida. Shortly after the incident, the homeowners notified their insurance company (Tower Hill Signature) of the damage, and an adjuster was dispatched to assess the property damage. After the conclusion of the inspection and appraisal, the homeowners filed a claim seeking $30,716.23 in compensation for their damages. However, Tower Hill Signature put a vastly differing value on the property loss, only agreeing to pay $4,304.75. Eventually, the homeowners filed a lawsuit against Tower Hill Signature, arguing that their proposed payment was inadequate.
The Alleged Non-Compliance With Post-Loss Obligations
Prior to the date that the lawsuit was served on the insurance company, Tower Hill Signature claimed that they sent the homeowners two separate letters. According to the company, these letters indicated that the homeowners had a legal duty, under the terms of their policy, to let additional plumbing experts and inspectors on their premises to conduct more analysis. Since no other adjusters ever made it onto the site of the property for inspection, Tower Hill Signature moved to have the lawsuit dismissed on the grounds that it had already complied with its obligations and that the Siegels failed to comply with their post-loss obligations. Thus, the policyholders lost out on their ability to take any additional legal action.
Why the Appeals Court Disagreed With the Insurance Company
The Appeals court affirmed that general point that property owners have a duty to comply with all of the post-loss obligations contained within in the specific policy. Indeed, the Appeals Court also affirmed that point that failure to comply could result in a property owner losing out on their legal right to bring a lawsuit. Yet, in this case, the Appeals Court found that Tower Hill Signature failed to provide adequate evidence that showed that the homeowners actually prevented independent adjusters and experts from accessing their property. The legal burden to prove non-compliance is always on the insurance company, and in this case, the company failed to meet that burden. For homeowners, the lesson is clear: Be proactive and do whatever you can to ensure compliance with your policy’s post-loss requirements.
Get Fort Lauderdale Property Insurance Help Today
At Geyer Fuxa Tyler, our top-rated property insurance lawyers have helped many homeowners obtain the full and fair compensation they deserve under their policy. If your claim was denied, please do not hesitate to contact us today at (954) 990-5251 to request a free review of your case. We represent property owners throughout Broward County, including in Coral Springs, Davie and Pompano Beach.