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Florida Appeals Court Rules for Policyholder in Bad Faith Insurance Dispute

BadFaith

On January 19, 2018, Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal issued an important decision in the case of Philip Landers v. State Farm Florida Insurance Company. This ruling could make it a little bit easier for policyholders to file a bad faith lawsuit in Florida in the future. In this post, our experienced Fort Lauderdale bad faith insurance attorneys analyze this decision and explain its potential implications. 

Case Analysis: Philip Landers v. State Farm Florida Insurance Company  

The Facts 

In 2009, Florida homeowner Philip Landers filed an insurance claim after his property sustained serious damage. His insurance provider, State Farm Florida, hired a third-party company to investigate the claim. This company determined that the loss was likely caused by sinkhole activity. State Farm Florida agreed that this damage was covered under the policy. Soon after, a dispute arose regarding whether or not underpinning would be required. The repairs were eventually made without underpinning. In 2011, after repairs were completed, the home was still sustaining additional sinkhole damage.

Mr. Landers brought a breach of contract lawsuit against State Farm Florida. The insurance company responded by seeking appraisal to settle this dispute. At this time, Mr. Landers filed a Civil Remedy Notice (CRN), giving the insurance company 60 days to remedy violations. Eventually, the appraiser determined that the homeowners’ sinkhole damage exceeded the policy limit. The insurance company offered payment for the policy limit. Mr. Landers immediately filed a bad faith lawsuit, arguing that State Farm Florida always knew that his damages exceeded the policy limit. As such, he contended that the insurance company was unreasonable in delaying payment.

The Ruling 

State Farm Florida moved to have the bad faith lawsuit dismissed, on the grounds that policyholder could not bring such a claim due to the fact that the company had filed for appraisal. A lower court agreed with this argument, granting summary judgment for the insurance company. However, on review, Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal reversed the decision. The court noted that under Florida law, there are only three requirements that must be met before a policyholder can file a bad faith claim:

  • Determination of liability;
  • Determination of damages; and
  • The filing of required notices.

All three were met in this case. The appeals court found that there was no basis in Florida law that justified the ‘tolling’ of a CRN just because an insurer has filed for appraisal.

Why This Decision Matters

This case could have important implications for bad faith insurance litigation going forward. The Fifth District Court of Appeal clearly articulates that Florida law does not require final determination of coverage and damages before a policyholder can file a CRN. This could make it easier to file bad faith lawsuits.

Were You a Victim of Bad Faith Insurance Practices?

We can help. At Geyer Fuxa Tyler, our skilled Florida property insurance lawyers have considerable experience handling bad faith insurance claims. To set up a free, no strings attached review of your case, please contact us today. With an office in Sunrise, we represent clients throughout Broward County, including in Hollywood, Davie, Coral Springs, Hallandale Beach, and Tamarac.

Resource:

5dca.org/Opinions/Opin2018/011518/5D15-4032.op.mot%20reh.pdf

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