May 10, 2023

Kelley Kronenberg Obtains Summary Judgment in Case Involving Scope of Appraisal

The Kelley Kronenberg’s First-Party Property Team, comprised of Partners, Michael Colgan and Scott Dornstein, and Paralegal, Jodi Peterman, were victorious on Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment in this case seeking damages of $23,000.00, plus attorneys’ fees, costs, and interest. The Honorable Dan R. Mosley presided over this case before Florida’s Fifth Judicial Circuit.  

On January 28, 2019, Homeowners reported water damage to their ceiling, allegedly related to Hurricane Irma, on September 11, 2017. The carrier investigated the loss and determined there was no damage to the roof consistent with the alleged cause of loss. However, the carrier found damage inside the property and adjusted the loss to the interior of the property from rainwater and issued payment to Plaintiffs on February 5, 2019.  

On February 21, 2019, a public adjuster hired by Plaintiffs sent an estimate to the carrier claiming the total value of the loss to be $53,952.41. On July 18, 2019, the public adjuster invoked the Plaintiffs’ right to appraisal under the insurance policy. The appraisers selected by the parties submitted competing estimates to an agreed-upon neutral umpire. Plaintiffs’ appraiser itemized damages to the roof; Defendant’s appraiser did not.  

The umpire did not include any damage to the roof as part of the loss and determined the value of the loss to be $14,212.15. On October 8, 2019, State Farm paid the appraisal award, less the applicable deductible and prior payments. Plaintiffs filed suit for Breach of Contract on June 12, 2020. 

In the aggressive defense of this matter, Michael Colgan filed Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment premised on the fact that the appraisal clause within the policy dictates the appraisal process shall set the amount of the loss and Defendant paid the full amount of the loss as determined by a neutral umpire, with no part of the appraisal award withheld due to a coverage dispute. As such, Defendant paid the full amount of the loss and Plaintiffs could establish the existence of a genuine issue of material fact. 

Plaintiffs argued exclusion of the roof from the award and prior statements by the carrier that there was no covered damage to the roof left open the question of coverage of the roof for consideration in litigation. The Court, in granting summary judgment, disagreed and held that because the loss was covered, questions regarding the scope of the loss were proper for appraisal, and that the appraisal award was binding even though it was silent as to the roof. 

Faced with competing appraisals and potential exposure exceeding $23,000.00, plus attorney’s fees, costs and interest, Michael Colgan and his team shielded our clients from liability. Additionally, as Plaintiffs rejected our proposals for settlement, Mr. Colgan paved the way for the carrier to seek an award of attorney’s fees and costs.