Am I Entitled To Fees and Costs Following A Successful Insurance Coverage Dispute?
Having to take your property insurance company to court in order to get them to pay for a claim is frustrating–and as one Florida condominium association recently found out, the process can actually end up costing the insured party even more in court costs and associated fees. It is highly recommended to have an attorney like the lawyer Tampa FL residents trust
Back in 2005, River Oaks Condominium II Association, Inc. sued its insurance company, Citizen Property Insurance Corp., for breach of contract after the insurer failed to conduct a proper investigation into the condo association’s sinkhole claims. Following a court-ordered appraisal, the Hillsborough County Circuit Court awarded almost $4.8 million to the condo association to cover sinkhole-related damage to the association’s buildings as well as associated costs and fees of almost $1 million.
Citizen Property Insurance Corp. appealed the lower court’s decision, arguing the approximately $900,000 they were ordered to pay for property management, public adjuster, appraisal and double attorney fees should not be covered. In Citizen Property Insurance Corp. v. River Oaks Condominium II Association, Inc., the Second District Court of Appeal agreed with the insurance company.
The appellate court asserted that the lower court had abused its discretion by including the public adjuster and property management fees in the condo association’s award because these fees are not litigation costs. In particular, the court noted that a public adjuster is similar to an expert witness (the cost of which is not covered by the losing party in Florida). The appellate court also found that River Oaks Condominium II Association should have paid for its own appraiser under their policy with Citizen Property Insurance Corp. Lastly, the Second District Court concluded that using a multiplier to calculate the condo association’s attorney fees was not appropriate in this case.
What does the Second District Court’s decision mean for other insured parties that find themselves in same situation as River Oaks Condominium II Association? In short, taking an insurance company to court may result in recovering money due for a legitimate claim, but the insured should expect to have to cover the significant fees and costs associated with doing so.
A special thanks to our partners at The McKinney Law Group for their high level expertise in Insurance Law.[ssba]