May 3, 2023

Kelley Kronenberg Prevails on Motion For Sanctions And Gains Dismissal Of Plaintiff’s Duplicative Action

Kelley Kronenberg Partner, Matthew Strauss, prevailed on a Motion for Sanctions, resulting in monetary sanctions and dismissal of Plaintiff’s Complaint with prejudice. The Honorable Judge Betsy Benson presided.  

In this First-Party Property action, Plaintiff filed a claim for insurance benefits in the County Court division of Broward County resulting from damage to a property insured by Citizens. In said claim, Plaintiff alleged that, on or about August 15, 2018, while his homeowner’s policy was in full force and effect, the insured property sustained a sudden and accidental failure of the plumbing system. After investigation, the carrier denied the claim based on the loss being caused by repeated leakage or seepage and the policy not affording coverage to plumbing system losses. This action for Breach of Contract and Declaratory Relief followed.  

During his initial handling of this claim, Matthew Strauss discovered that Plaintiff had previously filed another Complaint for Breach of Contract and Declaratory Relief against Citizens in which he alleged water damage to the property occurring on August 15, 2018, a claim that was denied based on constant and repeated seepage. Plaintiff’s first suit was filed in the Broward County Circuit Court division and Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment in said action.  

Following the Motion for Summary Judgment in the Circuit Court case, Plaintiff filed his suit in the County Court division. Upon discovery of the prior action, Mr. Strauss sent a Safe Harbor letter to Plaintiff’s counsel pointing out that the two cases were identical and that the first case was being actively litigated. The correspondence provided Plaintiff’s counsel with the opportunity to dismiss the latter action within twenty-one days, but this was not done. As such, and as Citizens had been forced to expend time, costs and resources and a duplicative and meritless lawsuit, Mr. Strauss filed a Motion for Sanctions.  

Upon considering Defendant’s Motion and both referenced suits, Judge Benson concluded both suits were filed by the same Plaintiff and referenced the same date of loss of August 15, 2018, the same Policy, and the same claim number. In addition, the same attorney represented Plaintiff for both lawsuits. The Court went on to state that both cases called for substantially identical questions of law and fact which would entail substantial duplication of labor.  

The Court provided substantial analysis in its Order, noting “when a claim is deemed frivolous because it lacks legal merit under Florida Statute Section 57.105(1)(b), sanctions must be awarded solely against the offending party’s attorney. Specifically, section 57.105(3)(c) expressly provides that when a claim is frivolous based upon its lack of legal merit under subsection (1)(b), sanctions may be awarded against a represented party.” Finding that Plaintiff’s Complaint was not supported by the material facts necessary to establish a claim; nor was the claim supported by the application of existing law as applied to these material facts, as same was duplicative of the previously filed action, the Court granted Defendant’s Motion for Sanctions, and dismissed Plaintiffs’ Complaint with prejudice. Finally, the Court instructed that all attorney’s fees and costs incurred in defending this action, including prejudgment interest, are to be paid in equal amounts by Plaintiffs and Plaintiffs’ counsel.