State Farm Florida Insurance Company v. Fernandez, 2017 WL 621247 (Fla. 3d DCA Feb. 15, 2017)

Homeowners sued their insurer to recover on a 2010 supplemental claim for damages allegedly caused by Hurricane Wilma in 2005. The trial court compelled the parties to appraisal, but State Farm argued on appeal that the trial court did not have discretion to compel appraisal because the homeowners failed to comply with all of their post-loss obligations, a condition precedent to an appraisal under the insurance policy. The appellate court agreed, and reversed the order compelling appraisal.

State Farm Florida Insurance Company v. Figueroa, 2017 WL 514361 (Fla. 4th DCA Feb. 8, 2017)

This was an appeal of a jury verdict in a property damages claim brought by a homeowner against her insurer. State Farm sought a new trial arguing that testimony at trial by the homeowner as to her health was not relevant to any issue in the property damage case. The appellate court agreed, ruling that the homeowner’s medical condition was irrelevant, and improperly injected the potential for a sympathy verdict. Accordingly, the appellate court reversed the verdict and remanded for a new trial.

Prepared Insurance Company v. Gal, 209 So. 3d 14 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016)

This was an action by homeowners to recover full replacement cost of kitchen cabinets allegedly damaged by a sink leak. The homeowner’s insurer appealed a jury verdict contending that the trial court committed four errors ranging from improperly excluding insurer’s witnesses to misinterpretation of the meaning of a “replacement cost” insurance policy.  The appellate court agreed with the insurer on all four grounds, reversed the jury verdict, and remanded for a new trial.

State Farm Florida Ins. Co. v. Lime Bay Condominium, Inc., 187 So.3d 932 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016)

The trial court entered summary judgment in favor of an insured and awarded attorneys’ fees finding that the insurer’s voluntary payment of an appraisal award after suit was filed acted as a confession of judgment, thus entitling the insured to recover attorney’s fees. On appeal, the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed the summary judgment, holding that a factual dispute existed as to whether the insured was compelled to filed suit in the first place. Unless the insured was forced to file suit in order to get the insurer to participate in the appraisal, the confession of judgment doctrine would not apply. The Court remanded the case for further proceedings to determine whether State Farm appropriately invoked its right to appraisal to resolve the insurance claim through the appraisal process prior to  suit, in which case the insured was not forced to file suit under the law.

Limones v. Sch. Dist. of Lee County, 161 So. 3d 384 (Fla. 2015)

This case involved a young high school student who suffered severe brain injuries when he collapsed during a school-sponsored soccer game. the Supreme Court of Florida held that a special relationship exists under the law between a school and its students; that the School Board had a duty to act with reasonable care in supervising its students during school-sponsored activities, including through use of  appropriate post-injury efforts to avoid further aggravating a student’s condition from an injury or illness manifesting during a school sporting event. The Court held that it was the jury’s responsibility on remand to determine whether the school’s failure to use an accessible automated external defibrillator represented a breach of the school’s duty of care.

Celebrity Cruises, Inc. v. Rankin, M.D., 175 So. 3d 359 (Fla. 3d DCA 2016)

 The Florida Third District Court of Appeal affirmed a trial court’s order certifying a class of doctors who sued Celebrity Cruises for withholding the portions of the doctors’ compensation that were generated by the sale of medications. The appellate court ruled that all the class members were beneficiaries of an identical written contract provision with the Cruise Line (i.e. that doctors’ commissions should be based on total medical revenue, services and medication sales), such that the common questions of fact predominated over any individual issues. Accordingly, the Court held, class certification was appropriate, and the case was remanded to proceed on a class basis.

Suarez v. Transmontaigne Servs., Inc., 127 So. 3d 845 (Fla. 4th DCA 2013)

An employee who was severely injured while working at Port Everglades received workers’ compensation benefits from his direct employer and sued another company operating at the port whose actions contributed to the plaintiff’s accident. The trial court entered summary judgment for the company, finding that it was entitled to workers’ compensation immunity. The Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed, however, determining that there were issues of fact as to whether the company could be deemed an employer since there were conflicting facts as to whether it had the power to control the plaintiff’s work.  

Kelley v. Beverly Hills Club Apartments, 68 So. 3d 954 (Fla. 3d DCA 2011)

The Third District Court of Appeal affirmed entry of summary judgment in favor of a rental apartment community after a resident unsuccessfully attempted suicide by jumping out a fifth floor window. The Court held that the apartment complex, which had no custody or control over the resident and had no knowledge of her suicidal tendencies, owed no duty under the law to take protective measures to prevent the tenant from injuring herself.

State Farm Florida Ins. co. v. Lorenzo, 969 So. 2d 393 (Fla. 5th DCA 2007)

Certiorari review was granted, because the lower court departed from the essential requirements of the law by relying on the “confession of judgment doctrine” in holding that State Farm’s payment of a claim after the insureds filed suit constituted a confession of judgment entitling the insureds to prevail on the breach of contract claim.  In actuality, State Farm adhered to its obligations under the insurance policy, and did not withhold benefits or compel the insureds to file suit. As such, the insureds’ suit was premature, and they were not entitled to attorneys’ fees under the confession of judgment doctrine.

Castillo v. E.I. Du Pont De Nemours & Co., Inc., 854 So. 2d 1264 (Fla. 2003)

This case involved a child who was born with anophtholmia, a rare birth defect in which the child develops in utero, and then is born with, with no eyes at all. The claim was that the birth defect was caused by the mother’s exposure to a fungicide called Benlate while she was pregnant with the child. The admissibility of the scientific evidence  was hotly contested on numerous issues, including whether the fungicide was a teratogen (producer of birth defects) at all; whether drifting spray from the farm where the fungicide was used could have reached the mother during her daily walks across the street; whether any dermal absorption of the spray by the could have been transported to the fetus; and whether the dosage if it reached the fetus was sufficient to cause the anophtolmia. The case was tried to a jury, who found in favor of the Plaintiffs and made an award of $4,000,000. The defendant DupPont appealed to the Florida Third District Court of Appeal, which reversed the judgment citing numerous grounds, including that the Plaintiffs’ scientific evidence was not reliable. We appealed the Third District’s decision to the Florida Supreme Court. The Supreme Court reversed the Third District and reinstated the judgment for the Plaintiffs, holding, inter alia, that Plaintiffs’ scientific evidence on the teratology of the fungicide was sufficiently reliable to be admissible and that it supported the conclusions that the mother was sprayed by the fungicide, which traveled through her bloodstream in sufficient dosage to cause the child’s birth defect.

Sobley v. S. Natural Gas Co., 302 F. 3d 325 (5th Cir. 2002)

 This was an appeal from a judgment entered on a jury verdict awarding $1,250,000.00 in punitive damages against an insurer in a suit brought by its insured, a homeowner who claimed that the insurer acted in bad faith in denying coverage for the insured’s water leak claim. The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the district court had erred in submitting the punitive damages claim to the jury as there was insufficient evidence that the insurer acted in bad faith in adjusting the homeowner’s claim. The district court was instructed to enter judgment for the insurer.

Deni Assocs. Of Fla, Inc. v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Ins. Co., 711 So. 2d 1135 (Fla. 1998)

In this appeal, the Supreme Court of Florida rejected the ‘reasonable expectations’ doctrine used in some jurisdictions under which a court may look to the ‘reasonable expectations’ of the insured as to the scope of coverage in determining whether a policy is ambiguous. 

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