Sometimes, when it comes to insurance, you may hear the argument that you breached your insurance policy by failing to provide your insurer with prompt notice as the insurance policy requires.  Well, this is not such an absolute issue.  With that said, you should absolutely provide your insurer with prompt notice of a claim or loss. No legitimate reason not to. But, if you don’t, it is not an absolute get out of jail free card for your insurer, but it does give them a good argument, which you don’t really want to deal with.

In Gulfpoint Construction Co., Inc. v. Westfield Ins. Co., 2024 WL 1759228 (11th Cir. 2024), an insured appealed a trial court’s ruling that found it did not provide prompt notice to its property insurer as the policy required. In this case, notice was provided two years after a loss from a hurricane. The insurer denied coverage and, in doing so, relied on the insured’s failure to provide prompt notice.  Although the trial court agreed, the appellate court found this was a genuine issue of material fact.

“A notice of damage is” often, and is here, “a pre-condition to a claim.” “If an insured breaches the notice provision” of an insurance policy, “prejudice to the insurer will be presumed, but [that presumption] may be rebutted by a showing that the insurer has not been prejudiced by the lack of notice.” “Whether the presumption of prejudice to the insurer has been overcome is ordinarily” a question of fact, so, to grant summary judgment, the record must “conclusively foreclose the insured’s ability to overcome the presumption of prejudice.  So, for example, in Shapiro v. First Protective Insurance Company, a Florida court found that whether the insureds had overcome the presumption was a fact question because their engineer, “based on his inspection, opined not only that the homeowners’ roof more likely than not had been damaged as a direct result of Hurricane Irma in 2017, but also that this damage still could be observed as late as 2022, five years after Hurricane Irma.”  Conversely, in De La Rosa, “the record foreclose[d] the insured’s ability to overcome the prejudice to the insurer in evaluating the extent of the damage because of the delay in making the claim” because the insurer “would not be able to determine the damage at the time of the incident.”  De La Rosa distinguished Stark on the ground that “even though there may be disputed issues of fact as to whether the insurer was prejudiced in determining the cause of the loss, the facts … show[ed] that the insurer would be prejudiced by the passage of time in investigating the extent of the loss, and thus, the cost of repair.” 

Gulfpoint Construction Co., supra at *5 (internal citations omitted).

Here, the insured had evidence to rebut the insurer’s prejudice argument to make the issue of whether the insured breached the insurance policy by its failure to provide prompt notice a question of fact:

[The insured’s] expert testified that he “was able to formulate [his] opinions” despite reviewing the damage years after the fact, “and was in no way prejudiced by the timing of [the] inspection”—to the contrary, he said, “no other windstorm event occurred at [the property’s] location between the time of Hurricane Irma and [his inspection] which could have resulted in the damage observed to the [Gulfpoint’s] Building and its roof system.” 

Indeed, [the insurer’s] own expert, Shatto, made clear that his investigation was not prejudiced by the passage of time. Asked to explain “how having to inspect that damage almost two years after Irma negatively impacted or limited [his] ability to” determine “the cause of any portion of the damage or rule out other potential competing causes of the same damage,” Shatto said this:

if I were to inspect that roof—if I had inspected that roof hand in hand with the Crowther Roof people [who conducted the inspection and repairs days after the hurricane], my report would have been identical …. I would have found the same partially formed cracks …. my report wouldn’t have changed.

Thus, as in Shapiro, there is plainly evidence from which a jury could infer that [the insurer] did not suffer prejudice in its investigation because of [the insured’s] delay in notifying them.

Gulfpoint Construction Co., supra at *6 (internal citations omitted).

While in this case, the insured lives another day by allowing this to be decided by the trier of fact–the jury–this is an issue that can be taken off the table by merely providing PROMPT NOTICE to your insurer.

Please contact David Adelstein at or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.


I have said this before, but it is worth saying it again.  Arbitration is a creature of contract.  This means if you want your dispute to be decided by an arbitrator through a binding arbitration process, you need have a written arbitration agreement.  Such agreement is oftentimes included in the dispute resolution provision of your construction contract.  It is always advisable to have counsel draft your arbitration provision since this can be an important provision if a dispute ensues down the road. Arbitration provisions are common in construction contracts.

However, the right to arbitrate can be waived.  If you participate in a litigation and act inconsistent with your contractual right to arbitrate, this can serve as a waiver of your right to later demand arbitration.  Whether you waived your right to arbitrate has nothing to do with whether the other party was prejudiced by you acting inconsistently with your right to arbitrate.  This issue was recently decided by the Supreme Court in Morgan v. Sundance, Inc., 2022 WL 1611788 (2022), where the Supreme Court held prejudice to the other party is a non-issue under the Federal Arbitration Act (which broadly applies to contracts involving interstate commerce) when it comes to determining whether a party waived his/her/its right to arbitrate.

Although this may appear insignificant, it is not.  It reinforces the notion that if you want to arbitrate your dispute pursuant to your contract, you should NOT take any action inconsistent with this right.  The best practice is actually to demand arbitration from the get-go.  If you need to file a lawsuit, reference in the lawsuit that the dispute is subject to arbitration, you have demanded arbitration, and that you will be contemporaneously filing a motion to stay the action pending arbitration.   If you are responding to the lawsuit, the best practice is to file the motion to stay the action and compel arbitration pursuant to the contract right off the bat.  There is no reason to wait. These are best practices because you are not undertaking any action inconsistent with the right to arbitrate and, importantly, not giving the other side the waiver argument.  Remember, whether the other party is prejudiced by any proven waiver is moot–it does not impact whether or not you waived your right to arbitrate.

Please contact David Adelstein at or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.



If there is an arbitration provision in your contract that you want to enforce, you do not want to take action inconsistent with those rights as this could give rise to a waiver argument, i.e., that you waived your rights to arbitrate, particularly if the other party has been prejudiced.

Under federal policy and law, establishing waiver requires the party arguing waiver to “bear a heavy burden of proof.  U.S. f/u/b/o John Wayne Construction, G.S.A. Division, LLC v. Federal Ins. Co., 2021 WL 4526727 (M.D.Fla. 2021) quoting Stone v. E.F. Hutton & Co., 898 F.2d 1542, 1543 (11th Cir. 1990).

“To determine whether the right to arbitrate has been waived, courts apply a two part test: i) whether, “‘under the totality of the circumstances,’ the party ‘has acted inconsistently with the arbitration right’”; and ii) “whether, by doing so, that party ‘has in some way prejudiced the other party.’”  Id. quoting Ivax Corp. V. B. Braun of Am., Inc., 286 F.3d 1309, 1315-16 (11th Cir. 2002).   Substantial participation in litigation prior to invoking the right to arbitrate supports a party acting inconsistent with the right to arbitrate.  Id.   And, “‘[p]rejudice has been found in situations where the party seeking arbitration allows the opposing party to undergo the types of litigation expenses that arbitration was designed to alleviate.’”  Id. quoting Morewitz v. W. of Eng. Ship Owners Mut. Prot. & Indem. Ass’n (Luxembourg), 62 F.3d 1356, 1366 (11th Cir. 1995).

Hence the heavy burden for a party to support to prove waiver– establishing both substantial participation in litigation that is inconsistent with the right to arbitrate AND prejudice.

An example of this heavy burden to support waiver can be found in the Federal Magistrate’s Report and Recommendation in U.S. f/u/b/o John Wayne Construction, G.S.A. Division, LLC.  Here, a prime contractor on a federal project in Louisiana hired a drywall subcontractor.  The subcontract contained a detailed provision to address disputes with the final process as follows:

[I]t may choose to pursue the matter in court, subject to the requirements on venue and alternative dispute resolution agreed to herein. Any claim by[subcontractor] filed in state or federal court against [prime contractor] and/or [prime contractor’s] surety shall only be filed and/or resolved in anycourt within the exclusive venue of Duval County, Florida. At [prime contractor’s] sole option, [prime contractor] may require Alternative DisputeResolution (ADR) methods to be used to resolve the dispute, including binding arbitration in accordance with the Construction Industry Rules ofthe American Arbitration Association, instead of litigation in a court of law. In the event [prime contractor] elects binding arbitration, any claimsthat [subcontractor] may have against any bonds provided by [prime contractor] shall be stayed, pending the result of such binding arbitration.

(As an aside, an arbitration provision is enforceable if it gives one party – perhaps the prime contractor—the sole option to select arbitration as the binding dispute resolution procedure, as was the situation in this arbitration provision.)

Due to a dispute between the drywall subcontractor and prime contractor, the prime contractor filed a lawsuit in state court in Louisiana.  The subcontractor, after a mediation between the parties reached an impasse, moved to dismiss the lawsuit and contemporaneously filed a lawsuit in Florida federal court against the prime contractor and Miller Act payment bond surety (based on venue provision in the subcontract).  The prime contractor did not dispute the dismissal contending it was formally invoking its right to arbitrate with the subcontractor. The prime contractor further moved to compel arbitration of the subcontractor’s Florida federal court lawsuit pursuant to its rights under the subcontract’s dispute resolution procedure.

The subcontractor argued that the prime contractor waived its right to compel arbitration by virtue of it initially filing a lawsuit against the subcontractor in Louisiana state court.  The prime contractor countered that the subcontractor cannot meet the required heavy burden to support waiver and, nonetheless, it did not act inconsistent with its rights to arbitrate.  The Federal Magistrate agreed with the prime contractor finding that waiver did not occur recommending the parties be compelled to binding arbitration.

First, the Magistrate found that the prime contractor filing the Louisiana lawsuit where there was limited litigation was insubstantial and did not result in the substantial participation in litigation to demonstrate it was acting inconsistent with its right to arbitrate. Further, once the subcontractor filed its lawsuit in the Florida federal court, the prime contractor filed its motion to compel the lawsuit to arbitration and did not substantially participate in litigation in the Florida federal court.  “Under the ‘totality of circumstances,’ it does not appear that the Louisiana Lawsuit or the current case [in Florida federal court”] before this Court amount to ‘substantial participation in litigation’ to a point that was inconsistent with the intent to arbitrate.” U.S. f/u/b/o John Wayne Construction, G.S.A. Division, LLC, supra.

Second, the Magistrate found that even if the prime contractor acted inconsistent with its right to arbitrate by initiating the Louisiana lawsuit, this would not matter because there was no prejudice to the subcontractor. The Magistrate noted that while the subcontractor incurred costs due to the Louisiana lawsuit, the subcontractor filed only one motion, a hearing was not held on the motion, and the dispute was dismissed without prejudice; thus, the expenses were not so prejudicial to the subcontractor.   Moreover, “looking at the totality of circumstances (along with the finding that the Louisiana Lawsuit amounted to insubstantial litigation), the undersigned [Magistrate] find that [the subcontractor] is not so prejudiced to satisfy its heavy burden.” U.S. f/u/b/o John Wayne Construction, G.S.A. Division, LLC, supra.


Please contact David Adelstein at or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.