June 14, 2023Share
Kelley Kronenberg Obtains Summary Judgment Based on Goldberg Defense
Kelley Kronenberg Partner, Lizbell Lucero, obtained Summary Judgment for our client, American Integrity Insurance Company (“American Integrity”), based on the “Goldberg defense,” thereby foreclosing upon Plaintiffs’ claim for $160,000.00 in damages, attorney’s fees, and costs. The Honorable James Yancey, of Florida’s Tenth Judicial Circuit, presided.
This lawsuit involved a first-party homeowner’s insurance claim and property damage from an alleged windstorm that occurred on December 27, 2019. The loss was reported to Defendant and an investigation commenced, after which, Defendant accepted coverage for the reported damages to Plaintiffs’ roof. Defendant then informed Plaintiffs that the repair costs for the covered damages did not exceed their deductible; thus, no payment would be made.
Following American Integrity’s coverage decision, Plaintiffs did not submit a competing estimate or supplemental claim prior to filing suit. Rather, on or about September 1, 2020, Plaintiffs, through counsel, made a demand for “full payment,” but did not provide an estimate or dollar amount. Plaintiffs filed a breach of contract action on October 19, 2020.
Ms. Lucero aggressively defended this claim, filing a Motion for Summary Judgment on our client’s behalf. Ms. Lucero asserted Defendant is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law as Plaintiffs failed to submit a supplemental claim as required by Fla. Stat. § 627.70132 and the subject policy. In further support, Ms. Lucero argued American Integrity could not have breached the policy by failing to pay a supplemental claim, as no such claim existed; and, until a supplemental claim is made, the carrier has nothing upon which to rely when tendering payment other than its own estimate.
The Court agreed with Ms. Lucero, incorporating much of Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment into the Court’s Order. In the Order Granting Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment, Judge Yancey explained that, in Goldberg v. Universal Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 302 So. 3d 919 (Fla. 4th DCA 2020), Florida’s Fourth DCA upheld summary judgment in favor of the insurer under remarkably similar facts to those at issue in this case. In Goldberg and the case at bar, the insurer received notice of a claim for damage from a windstorm, adjusted the claim, accepted partial coverage, and covered damages that fell below the policy’s deductible; however, no payment was issued as the amount fell below the deductible, and Plaintiffs failed to submit an estimate, demand a specific dollar amount, or otherwise report a supplemental claim. Rather, they filed suit.
Ultimately, Judge Yancey granted Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment, agreeing with Ms. Lucero, that an insurer cannot breach its contract if it pays the amount of its estimate and considers supplemental claims; if no supplemental claim exists, the carrier cannot breach the contract. By this ruling, the Court extinguished Plaintiffs’ claim for $160,000.00 in damages, plus attorney’s fees and costs. The Court also reserved jurisdiction to address Defendant’s entitlement to attorney’s fees and costs, as prevailing party.