The number of examinations under oath that can be reasonably requested and whether there is compliance with those requests are common issues in condominium association insurance claims, especially in loss investigations for reopened hurricane claims. There have been several posts in the past weeks regarding the topic. I thought I would write about a hypothetical South Florida case where an insurer makes excessive requests for examinations under oath while “investigating” the claim of a condominium complex with several-hundred units.
In addition to requests for the association’s board members, can the insurer request the individual unit owners of the association give examinations under oath? What about the insurer’s assertion that the particular policy classifies unit owners as additional insureds for purposes of fixtures and subjects them to post-loss obligations? An example of standard policy language which might provide such an argument is:
With respect to coverage for fixtures, installations and additions provided, each unit owner will be considered an additional insured.
I would argue that the policy provision cited above did not express a contractual intent to subject every single unit owner to lengthy examinations. Requesting each unit owner to appear for examination under oath would be an unreasonable attempt by the insurer to keep the policy post-loss conditions open and indefinitely delay the claim.
Importantly, in Florida, courts are required to construe an insurance policy in accordance with its plain meaning. The plain language of this policy provision restricts the classification of unit owners as additional insureds to coverage for fixtures, installations and additions provided within that limited section of the policy. In Paulucci v. Liberty Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 190 F.Supp.2d 1312 (M.D. Fla. 2002), the policy named a corporation as well as an individual as an additional insured. The Court determined that when a board member of the corporation, and not the individual named insured, submitted to examination under oath, the one examination under oath was sufficient to satisfy the post-loss obligations of the policy, despite the board member’s inability to answer all of the questions posed.
With the Florida case authority cited herein and in the previous posts related to examinations under oath, it is reasonable to conclude that a request by an insurer for individual unit owners to appear for examinations under oath during an association’s claim, especially when the unit owners have no involvement in the claim, is excessive and would be done for purposes of delay. Requesting each unit owner to appear for examinations would seem to be an effort to strong-arm the association insured and keep the “investigation” open indefinitely. There is not a definitive case in Florida at this time specifically addressing on the issue.
Of course, the definitive answer to this question depends on the particular policy language, which may differ from the example used above, and you should always weigh the particular facts of the claim with the “reasonableness” of such requests made by the insurer in its post-loss “investigation.”