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Florida Appeals Court Decides that Homeowner May Challenge an Insurance Company’s Sinkhole Repair Plan, Roker v. Tower Hill Preferred Insurance Co., Case No. 2D13-5565 (2nd DCA 2015).

Insurance companies may not be entitled to direct how an insured individual performs sinkhole repairs as long as he or she has consulted with a qualified engineer. In the case of Roker v. Tower Hill Preferred Insurance Co., a homeowner, and her servicing homeowner’s insurance company agreed that a sinkhole damaged the insured home.  Tower Hill’s engineer recommended that the homeowner gets subsurface remediation that necessarily includes chemical grouting and compaction.  Tower Hill told Roker, the homeowner, that it would only reimburse sinkhole remediation if Roker contracted for subsurface work in according to its engineering recommendation. Subsequently, Roker obtained a second opinion on the sufficiency of Tower Hill’s proposed remediation plan.  That second opinion by another engineer found the original plan to be deficient and proposed an alternate plan that included chemical grouting, compaction, and underpinning.

Consequently, Roker contracted for repairs according to the second opinion.  Roker sent the signed repair contract to Tower Hill.  In response, Tower Hill refused to honor the contract for remediation because it did not implement the remediation plan the company initially proposed. Florida statute states in relevant part that if an insurer verifies damages stemming from a sinkhole, then the insurer must compensate the cost of stabilizing the land and repairing the foundation according to a remediation plan recommended by an engineer in consultation with the policyholder. The insurer must pay for other repairs as outlined in the policy.

Additionally, the relevant provisions of the Florida statutes state that an insurer is allowed to limit payment to the actual value of the loss from the sinkhole without including grouting, underpinning or another repair to a building’s existing foundation until the holder of the policy contracts with someone to fix the foundation or stabilize the building.

According to Tower Hill, the Florida statute described above required Roker to execute a contract with another party to perform repair work to the building’s subsurface in line with Tower Hill’s engineering report, and the trial court agreed. Roker appealed.

The Second District Court of Appeals of Florida disagreed with the trial court’s decision. The Court of Appeals held that the policy does not provide Tower Hill’s engineer with the ability to direct how Roker should repair the subsurface of the building unilaterally. The court stated that the jury has to decide which recommended means of repairing the building’s subsurface is enough to fix Roker’s house. Roker was cooperative with the insurance company during the process of filing a claim and had a right under Florida statute to reject a neutral, third-party evaluator’s recommendations. Tower Hill refused to pay money repairs to the subsurface even after Roker provided the company with a contract with a third-party who will perform such repairs in line with an engineer’s qualified recommendations. As such, the court ruled that there is still a bona fide disagreement between the parties as to the correct method of subsurface repairs and the total amount of Roker’s losses.

The terms of an insurance policy may contain complex provisions that the parties interpret differently and form the basis for a dispute. If your insurance company denied your homeowner’s insurance claim because of a provision in the policy and you believe the company’s interpretation was wrong, the Miami homeowner’s insurance lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano offer the assistance you need to obtain the results you desire.  With over 130 collective years of experience representing homeowner’s insurance clients across South Florida, our firm provides legal representation of unmatched excellence.  Contact our firm as soon as possible to start on the road to protecting your legal rights.  Our firm received an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell and was ranked as a top firm in South Florida by the Miami Herald.   Put our exceptional personal injury attorneys to work on your case.  Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or you can visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.




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