Friday, December 18, 2009

Citizens Property Insurance Corporation Is Immune From Bad Faith Claims

that Citizens is immune from first-party bad faith claims pursuant to section 627.351(6)(r)1. Likewise, we hold that Citizens is not subject to bad faith liability under section 624.155(1)(b)(1), as that statute is not applicable to it. Finally, we quash the discovery order dated April 15, 2009, and remand for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion. Prohibition, of course, applies only to the count seeking bad faith liability.
The opinion stated:
Mr. Garfinkel obtained a policy of windstorm insurance from Citizens covering his residence. As with many other Floridians, his residence was damaged by the multiple 2004 hurricanes. After a dispute arose concerning the extent of damage to the residence Mr. Garfinkel filed a two-count complaint to enforce his contract rights. The first count alleged a breach by Citizens of the contract of insurance, while the second count sought a declaration that the damage was covered by the policy. The parties agreed to resolve these issues using the appraisal process, and an appraisal award was eventually entered in favor of Mr. Garfinkel. When Mr. Garfinkel moved to confirm the award, he sought an amount in excess of the policy limits, asserting three distinct claims resulting from three separate occurrences. The trial court confirmed the award, but limited the amount awarded to the policy limits for a single occurrence.
The issue specifically before us is whether Citizens is shielded by sovereign immunity for the purposes of bad faith claims....According to its enabling statute, Citizens was created by the Florida Legislature in order to ensure the existence of an orderly market for property insurance, and particularly windstorm insurance, within Florida...Thus, it is explicitly clear that Citizens is not a private insurance company, but rather is a state body.
Citizens argues that the plain meaning of the statute permits only certain categories of suit against it, and bad faith claims are not among them. Mr. Garfinkel asserts to the contrary that the particular requirement to act in good faith found in section 627.351(6)(r)(2), suggests that the Legislature fully intended to allow a policy holder to assert a bad faith claim. The argument made by Citizens is more persuasive.
The logical implication is that the Legislature created Citizens as a state entity and made it immune from suit except for those suits of a very particular variety. Nowhere in section 627.351(6)(r)1 is there a specific exception stated for statutory bad faith claims under section 624.155(1)(b)(1). Moreover, the legislative history supports the view that there was no intention by the Legislature to subject Citizens to bad faith claims.
Thus, the Legislature was specifically presented with the opportunity to amend the statute to make certain that bad faith claims against Citizens would be authorized, but chose not to do so. Accordingly, the recent legislative history suggests that the Legislature did not intend for section 627.351(6)(r)2. to create a private right of action by policy holders against Citizens.


Unknown said...

What can you do in this case?
Furthermore; what if Citizen's has denied you knowingly of mold .... knows one is on chemo, one has a newborn --knew before baby was born, takes you to mediation and still does not provide for the estimated funds, does not provide for living expenses whilst property is in repair, ...?

Unknown said...

Forgot to add:
Seeks absolute exoneration "... existing or which may develop ... whether or not consequences ..." under sec. 624.155 and any other ...

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