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Our Miami homeowners insurance coverage attorneys are well aware of the advantages the Florida Legislature has bestowed on the insurance industry by bifurcating the issues of liability and claim value from bad faith litigation.  This legislation created a strategic advantage by permitting insurers to have the jury shielded from learning extensive details about sharp practices in an insurer’s adjusting process when considering liability.  Since the determination of damages can have a subjective component, insurance companies vigilantly leverage the bifurcation advantage by uniformly opposing attempts by policyholders to introduce evidence of its wrongful conduct and policy adjustment patterns.

In this blog, our Florida property damage attorneys review an appellate court decision demonstrating how insurers use the bifurcation process to shield juries from their bad faith practices.  In State Farm Florida Insurance Company v. Marascuillo, the policyholders originally filed a sinkhole claim related to the covered property (“the 2004 claim”).  The insurance company hired an engineering firm to investigate the claim and conduct testing.  The engineering company concluded sinkhole activity occurred and suggested compaction grouting as a remedy.  The insurer paid the estimated cost of this remedial approach to the sinkhole activity.  However, the policyholders hired a different engineering firm to remediate the sinkhole issues by way of grouted piers as opposed to compaction grouting. Continue reading →

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Litigation regarding homeowner’s insurance almost always stems from an insurance company’s denial of a claim. These disputes arise due to disagreements over the scope of coverage, and one of those disagreements are over personal liability coverage under the policy. Our homeowners insurance lawyers often see insurance companies trying to limit their responsibility to cover injuries under the policy, and as the case below illustrates, courts will interpret any ambiguities in coverage arising from language in the policy against the insurance company and likely rule for broader coverage.

In Maddox v. Florida Farm Bureau General Insurance Company, the plaintiff, and her two children lived with her boyfriend and his two dogs. The boyfriend had a homeowner’s insurance policy with Florida Farm Bureau. The policy provided the homeowner with personal liability insurance coverage up to $100,000 for each occurrence of harm. The insurance policy defines a single occurrence as an accident that results in bodily injury or property damage. One day, one of the homeowner’s dogs bit the plaintiff and one of her children, causing serious injuries. The plaintiff filed a complaint against the homeowner seeking damages. Florida Farm Bureau then asked the court to enter declaratory judgment stating that the whole dog attack on both the plaintiff and her child counted as a single occurrence under the insurance policy. Therefore, Florida Farm Bureau asked the court to rule that it was not liable to pay any damages to the plaintiff. The company argued that the damages the plaintiff claimed for her injuries were part of the same occurrence as the damages suffered by her child. Furthermore, the insurance company already paid the amount limit – $100,000 – to the child. The trial court granted the insurance company’s request and held that both injuries were subject to the single occurrence limit in the policy. The plaintiff appealed. Continue reading →

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