For many condominium association boards of directors, the fall months are considered “budget season” because this is the time the board members and property manager work together to produce a budget for the start of the new fiscal year in January. While condominium association budgets address a variety of things, property insurance is one significant line item that cannot be overlooked.
It seems that every few years the appraisal process becomes a hot topic across the country. While there are a number of disputes that can arise, the scope of what is determined in the appraisal process is often at the forefront of the argument.
Insurance policies have contained contractual appraisal clauses for many years. Recently, however, there have been a number of disputes over when appraisal can be invoked and when it can be rightfully rejected. Appraisal is appropriate when there is a “dispute” over the amount of loss. The problem faced by many courts has been when this “dispute” actually comes into existence.
For many years, some insurers have argued that Florida policyholders cannot bring statutory “bad faith” actions if the parties participate in the appraisal process. In essence, these insurers argued that there must be a finding of a breach of contract in an underlying action for an extra contractual action to proceed.
Numerous federal judges in Florida have rejected this argument, however until this week there were no Florida state court appellate opinions directly on point.
On March 7, 2011, Jeremy Tyler wrote Litigating The Right To Resolve Disputes Without Litigation, providing an excellent synopsis of various appeals Citizens Property Insurance Corporation (Citizens) pursued in the Florida Third District Court of Appeal related to compliance with policy conditions before appraisal. He discussed how Citizens is forcing policyholders to “proceed with evidentiary hearings to prove entitlement to an alternative dispute resolution proceeding that was, ironically, created as an alternative to litigation.” With so much contractual and judicial support for appraisal, policyholders may wonder what this evidentiary hearing that Citizens keeps requesting is supposed to accomplish.
Almost twelve years ago, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal published its opinion in U.S. Fid. & Guar. Co. v. Romay, 744 So. 2d 467 (Fla. 3d DCA 1999). As of the writing of this post, Romay has been cited in no less than 44 published court opinions. Most of these cases, like the recent Citizens Prop. Ins. Corp. v. Gutierrez, 59 So. 3d 177 (Fla. 3d DCA 2011), cite the language from Romay which requires that “[t]he insured must comply with all of the policy’s post-loss obligations before the appraisal clause is triggered.” Unfortunately, this statement is only half of Romay. This is the half that focuses on the insured’s obligations. There is another side of Romay that focuses on the insurer’s obligations, and although this other side is not often discussed, it recently found its way into a published opinion from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida in 200 Leslie Condo. Ass’n, Inc. v. QBE Ins. Corp., No. 10-61984-CIV, 2011 WL 2470344 (S.D. Fla. June 21, 2011).
If an association is unhappy with its insurer’s offer to settle a claim, it has two main avenues to resolve the dispute. First, the association can retain an attorney and file suit against the carrier for breach of contract. Second, the association can invoke the appraisal process afforded by most insurance policies.
Last week on the Property Insurance Coverage Law blog, I wrote about new appeals that had been filed in Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal in Miami regarding insurance appraisals. Since November of 2010, three new cases regarding appraisal had come out of the Third District: Citizens Prop. Ins. Corp. v. Galeria Villas Condo. Ass’n, Inc., 48 So. 3d 188 (Fla. 3d DCA 2010), Citizens Prop. Ins. Corp. v. Maytin, No. 3D10-693, 36 Fla. L. Weekly D51 (Fla. 3d DCA Dec. 29, 2010), and Citizens Prop. Ins. Corp. v. Mango Hill Condo. Ass’n 12, Inc., No. 3D10-2014, 2011 WL 613518 (Fla. 3d DCA Feb. 9, 2011). As of last week’s blog post, four new appeals had been filed by Citizens, which makes a total of seven (7) appraisal appeals filed by Citizens in the Third District alone.
Just last week, the Third District Court of Appeals issued another ruling involving entitlement to appraisal in Citizens Property Insurance Corp., v. Mango Hill Condo. Association 12, Inc., No. 3D10-2014 (Fla. 3d DCA February 9, 2011). The Third District has been busy the last couple of months with rulings on the issue of appraisal, and one carrier in particular seems to be filing many of the appeals. I wanted to introduce the recent ruling, and there will likely be some follow up discussion in the weeks to come.
The day before Thanksgiving last week, the Florida Third District Court of Appeal issued a non-final opinion in the case of Citizens Property Ins. Corp. v. Galeria Villas Condo. Ass’n, No. 3D10-807, 2010 WL 4740049 (Fla. 3d DCA Nov. 24, 2010).