THE FLORIDA TREND OF FINDING "GOOD FAITH" CLAIMS PRACTICES
(posted Oct. 2013)
The good news, the leveling of the playing field in Florida related to bad faith claims continues. On October 15, 2013, in the case of Viviana Novoa vs. Geico Indemnity Company (“Geico”), the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the lower Federal District Court’s granting of Geico Indemnity Company’s (“Geico”) summary judgment on the Plaintiff’s third party bad faith claim. The underlying Plaintiff sought over $16 Mill in damages, well in excess of the subject insurance policy. This “set-up” situation by the underlying Plaintiff’s counsel involved a role reversal, where the Plaintiff rejected reasonable offers by Geico to tender their policy limit. The Plaintiff attempted to allege a litany of ways Geico could have handled this claim better, to suggest that the standard to find bad faith is based upon a violation of “best practices” and negligence, rather than the standards set forth in Perera v. U.S. Fid & Guar. Co., 35 So. 3d, 893 (Fla. 2010).
One significance of this opinion is that Plaintiff’s counsel routinely argue there has been alleged bad faith by a carrier, that the issue of bad faith always involves a question of fact for a jury to decide, and the issue cannot be disposed of by summary judgment. Plaintiff’s counsel invariably seek to highlight for the carrier the inherent risks of jurors viewing insurance companies negatively, and that the alleged deficiencies in claims handling notes will be exposed to the Department of Insurance once made public. However, with the entry of this appellate opinion, this is yet another legal opinion where the bad faith law in Florida is being interpreted by courts to ferret out unsubstantiated and contrived bad faith set-ups.
For more information on the interpretation of Florida Bad Faith Laws, and the more favorable trend against bad faith findings of liability, please do not hesitate to contact Gary R. Shendell, Esq. or Brett Bloch at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org