Florida Insurance Matters is a monthly update on Florida insurance-related legal developments by the Colodny Fass Insurance Litigation Practice, recently recognized as the Insurance Litigation Department of the Year in South Florida by the Daily Business Review.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amy L. Koltnow, a Colodny Fass Shareholder, focuses her practice on representing insurance companies in complex insurance litigation and counseling insurers on claims resolution. She has represented insurers in connection with property damage and first-party coverage litigation, claims of “bad faith,” high-risk exposures, class actions and multi-district litigation.
For more information about Ms. Koltnow, click here.
Insureds Not Required to Produce Handyman or Water Restoration Employees for EUOs
Insureds reported a pipe leak to their insurer and submitted repair invoices from a handyman and water restoration company. The insurer requested EUOs of the insureds, the handyman and the water restoration company’s employees pursuant to the policy, which required the insureds, and their “agents” and “representatives” submit to EUOs. The policy did not define “agents” or “representatives”. The appellate court considered the commonly accepted meaning of these words as “someone who is authorized to act for or in place of another” or “someone who stands for or acts on behalf of another”. Applying these definitions, the court held the policy did not require the insureds to produce the handyman or the water restoration employees for EUOs. Avatar Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co. v. Castillo, 4th
DCA (April 22, 2020). Avatar Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co. v. Castillo, 4th DCA (April 22, 2020).
TIPS & LESSONS
- Review your policy language. The court noted that the insurer easily could have added language including “any persons who inspected or repaired the covered property.”
Fee Multiplier Upheld on Appeal in a Covered Insurance Dispute
An insured filed suit against its homeowner insurer for breach of contract involving a covered water damage/plumbing failure. The case was settled within 9 months of the insured’s lawsuit and the insurer conceded the insured’s entitlement to attorney’s fees. Nearly two years later, the trial court awarded plaintiff’s counsel $261,288 in fees and costs. The Third DCA affirmed the fee award, without a written opinion, which awarded a “blended rate” of $505.00 per hour for attorneys in the South Florida community, and applied a 1.5 fee multiplier where the likelihood of success was “approximately even” at the outset. The trial court found that the insurer’s partial denial of coverage contributed to the “difficulty and complexity” of the case “at the onset.” Citizens Prop. Ins. Corp. v. Martinez, 3d DCA (April 22, 2020).
TIPS & LESSONS
- Multipliers are a risk to be considered when evaluating the decision to settle a case or go to trial, how much to offer to settle, and how much to reserve
- Click here for the trial court’s fee award. Martinez v. Citizens Prop. Ins. Corp., 11 Cir., March 14, 2019 (J. Reemberto Diaz)
Appellate Court Upholds Multiplier in Contested Insurance Dispute