Tallahassee, Florida (PRWEB) January 26, 2014
Perdido Sun Condominium Association v. Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, First District Court of Appeals Case Number 1D13-1951. This case, a Hurricane Ivan claim originally filed in Escambia County, now is before Florida’s First District Court of Appeals and, according to Perdido Sun, a large condominium in Perdido Key, Florida, is of great importance to every coastal property and business owner in the state of Florida.
According to court records, Perdido Sun suffered catastrophic damage from Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Citizens, Florida’s government created, “insurer of last resort,” insured the property. Citizens refused to pay Perdido Sun’s claim and after over four years of litigation and appeals, the Escambia County Circuit Court found that Citizens breached its contract with Perdido Sun, multiple times. Perdido Sun Condominium Assoc., Inc. v Citizens Prop Ins. Corp., Escambia County Case No. 2005-CA-000831.
Perdido Sun filed the current lawsuit in Escambia County, seeking to hold Citizens liable for bad faith, which according to Florida’s Bad Faith Statute is defined as, “Not attempting in good faith to settle claims when, under all the circumstances, it should have done so, had it acted fairly and honestly toward its insured and with due regard for his or her interests.” Perdido Sun (and another Perdido Key Condominium, San Perdido in a sister case) has alleged that, “Citizens purposely engaged in a pattern of obstruction, delay and avoidance in order to avoid its obligation to pay Perdido Sun’s claim.“
This case centers around argument over whether the Florida Legislature intended to grant Citizens blanket immunity to bad faith or whether exceptions to the limited immunity built into Citizens enabling statute allow Perdido Sun, and others similarly situated, to sue Citizens for bad faith. In briefs to the Court, Citizens has claimed that it is a government agency and thus is immune to bad faith liability, regardless of its behavior. Perdido Sun has alleged that without the threat of bad faith liability that Citizens has no incentive whatsoever to settle claims promptly and fairly and can drag the claims process out nearly indefinitely, at worst facing the prospect of paying policyholders only what it should have paid under the policy in the first place.
Today the First District Court of Appeals issued its opinion that, “Although Citizens differs from private insurers because Citizens has, 'a duty to the state to manage its assets responsibly to minimize its assessment potential,' the same statute imposes a, 'duty to its policyholders to handle claims carefully, timely, diligently and in good faith.'” The Court went on to hold that Citizens could be held liable for bad faith under a specific exception to its immunity for “willful torts” contained in the statute that created Citizens.
The battle may not be over yet. The First District Court of Appeals certified that the issue was one of, “great public importance,” leaving the door open for Citizens to appeal to the Florida Supreme Court. Further, Perdido Sun also warns that Citizens is likely to employ its lobbyists in Tallahassee to try to get its enabling statute changed to exempt it from bad faith if the case goes against it and attorneys for Perdido sun have set up a blog on their website at http://www.liberislaw.com/blog/ to track any developments in the statehouse and have open forums to allow people to exchange information concerning Citizens.