In a first party bad-faith lawsuit, such as a bad faith claim against an insured’s property insurer, there are three requirements that must be met before the bad faith lawsuit is filed: “‘(1) determination of the insurer’s liability for coverage; (2) determination of the extent of the insured’s damages; and (3) the required notice must be filed under section 624.155(3)(a).’” Fortune v. First Protective Ins. Co., 45 Fla. L. Weekly D2092a (Fla. 2d DCA 2020) (citation omitted).
The third requirement is for the insured to file a Civil Remedy Notice (known as a “CRN”) as a condition precedent to filing a statutory bad faith lawsuit giving the insurer 60 days’ notice of the bad faith violation and to cure the violation, i.e., pay the claim if the violation is payment.
A very common bad faith payment violation is the assertion that the insurer did NOT attempt “in good faith to settle claims when, under the circumstances, it could and should have done so, had it acted fairly and honestly towards its insured and with due regard for his or her interests.” Fla. Stat. s. 624.155(1)(b)(1).
Can a statutory bad faith action still be triggered if the insurer invokes the appraisal process per the insurance policy BEFORE the insured files its CRN? The answer is yes!
In Fortune, an insured suffered a loss stemming from a hurricane. The insurer adjusted the loss, after applying the deductible and depreciation, at approximately $3,000 and paid that money to the insured. The insured disputed this was a final amount for the loss and the insurer demanded appraisal per the policy. The insured then filed a CRN to start the statutory bad faith process. The insurer did NOT cure the violation—pay the claim—within the required 60-day period. The parties went through appraisal and the umpire determined the loss to be approximately $120,000. The insurer paid what it owed per the umpire’s award. The insured then filed his bad faith lawsuit. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the insurer finding there was no bad faith because the insurer instituted the appraisal process before the insured filed a CRN and then paid the award.
The Second District Court of Appeals reversed the summary judgment.
An insured is not precluded from filing a CRN prior to a determination of the insurer’s liability for coverage (requirement 1 above) or a determination of the extent of the insured’s damages (requirement 2 above). Thus, the insured was within his rights to file a CRN after the insurer instituted the appraisal process. See Fortune, supra (“Even if a policy requires the mediation or appraisal process to occur prior to suit being filed, an appraisal is not a condition precedent to the insurer fulfilling its obligation to fairly evaluate the claim and to either deny coverage or to offer an appropriate amount based on that fair evaluation.”).
Moreover, “an alleged payment violation [by the insurer] would require payment within the sixty-day cure period.” Fortune, supra. This means that the insurer invoking the appraisal process and then paying the umpire’s award AFTER the 60-day cure period expired does not cure a bad faith payment violation.
If you are dealing with a property insurance coverage claim or dispute, it is imperative that you work with counsel to ensure your rights are preserved. In this case, the insured’s bad faith rights were preserved against the insurer by the insured filing a CRN even after the insurer instituted the appraisal process.
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