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Court Rules that Homeowner’s Insurance Claim is Not Time Barred

In Linares v. Universal, the Third District Court of Appeal again had to decide whether or not a homeowner’s claim against an insurance company for property damage was time barred.

In this case, the insurance company sought to defend the claim on technicalities.  It argued that the homeowner’s claim failed because the lawsuit was not filed within Florida’s five year statute of limitations.  The trial court agreed, and an appeal ensued.

On appeal, the appellate court reversed the trial court’s ruling.

Specifically, the homeowner had sustained damage to his property following Hurricane Wilma in 2005.  After that the homeowner then submitted a claim to his insurance company seeking payment for his damages.  The insurance company wrote a letter in Feb. of 2006 saying the value of the homeowner’s claim fell within his deductible.  However, the insurance company did not deny the claim.  Rather, the insurance company requested that the homeowner provide the insurance company with more information should the homeowner come up with more information to support his claim.

Some three years later, the homeowner provided the insurance company with a report of a private adjuster estimating the damages to exceed the policy deductible by tenfold.  The insurance company then sought to take the homeowner’s examination under oath and secure a sworn proof of loss from the homeowner.  The homeowner complied.  After that the insurance company denied the claim in August of 2012.  In July of 2012, the homeowner filed suit.

The insurance company fought the claim by arguing that the homeowner’s claim was time barred in that the lawsuit was not filed timely.  The appellate court disagreed and noted that the statute of limitations does not start to run until the last element constituting the cause of action occurs.  This typically occurs at the time the insurance contract is breached.  The appellate court reasoned that the insurance contract was breached at the time the insurance company sent its denial letter in August of 2012.

The appellate court also noted that  Florida’s legislature amended the statute of limitations for property insurance claims in 2011 by specifying that such actions begin to run from the date of loss.  However, that amendment does not apply retroactively and did not apply to this case.

Please feel free to contact us to discuss your property damage claim.

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