Colodny Fass Litigators Obtain Landmark Success on the Sinkhole “Structural Damage” Warfront
Nov 20, 2013
Court rules that prior to the 2011 amendments of the sinkhole statutes, “structural damage” in context of sinkhole loss meant damage that impairs the structural integrity of the building
Maria Abate and Amy Koltnow obtained a favorable judgment in the ongoing, state-wide debate over the meaning of the phrase “structural damage to the building” in the context of a sinkhole loss. Circuit court judge John Radabaugh, sitting in Polk County, a hotbed for sinkhole claims, granted summary judgment in the carrier’s favor adding another trial court decision to the armor of the insurance carriers who have been crying foul for years over the rampant increase in litigation relating to sinkhole claims at a high price to carriers and to Florida citizens.
By this order, Judge Radabaugh confirms the clarifying purpose of the new sinkhole amendments and affirms that prior to the amendments, the plain meaning of the phrase “structural damage to the building” was understood to mean damage to the load-bearing parts and material that ensure the building’s stability.
The litigators pursued an aggressive stance to combat the argument that any damage to the structure obligates the carrier to conduct “full subsidence” testing to rule out the existence of sinkhole activity-regardless of whether the home suffered structural damage that would constitute a sinkhole loss covered by the policy.
Judge Radabaugh’s order, along with a recent similar federal trial court order in the Middle District of Florida, signifies a change in the tide to how the courts are interpreting the language that the Florida Legislature sought to clarify by requiring certain threshold scientific or technical determinations of structural damage to the building before obligating the carrier to pay for the loss.
Click here to read the court’s order.
For over 40 years, Colodny Fass has represented insurers in complex and high-risk litigation such as class actions, bad faith, insurance fraud, multi-jurisdictional cases, coverage matters, and fact-intensive, multi-party lawsuits requiring superior organizational skills and trial experience. We effectively represent insurance carriers, third-party administrators and self-insured entities in state, federal and administrative trials and appellate courts, and routinely handle all aspects of insurance coverage and defense, including bad faith and extra-contractual claims, class action and collective claims, coverage disputes between insurers, first and third-party claims, investigation and prosecution of fraudulent claims, primary, excess and reinsurance claims, and regulatory appeals and hearings.
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