Florida Appellate Court Rejects Retroactive Shortening of Statute of Limitations

J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo
Founder of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A.

When filing a homeowner’s insurance claim for damage to your residence, there are many contractual and legal complexities that insurance companies use to delay, deny or underpay insurance claims.  These obstacles constitute a minefield that can quickly blow up a legitimate insurance claim.  If you do not retain an experienced Miami homeowner’s insurance claims attorney, you are at a distinct disadvantage.  Insurance carriers have adjusters, experts and insurance defense attorneys with extensive experience handling thousands of claims. 

A recent Florida Court of Appeals decision from the 4th District, Donovan v. Florida Peninsula Insurance Company, provides an example of common defenses used by insurance companies to deny claims.  Arlene Donovan appealed an order dismissing her breach of contract action against her homeowner’s insurance carrier.  The claim was for damage to her residence caused by Hurricane Wilma in 2005.  The trial court decided for the insurance company based on two separate defenses: (1) the statute of limitations and (2) failure to comply with the policy’s Notice of Loss provision.

After Donovan’s home was damaged, she received an appraisal award by an umpire.  However, her application for a permit to repair her roof was denied by the local government entity because the materials envisioned in the appraisal were no longer available for purchase.  When the insured requested additional funds to complete the roof repair in compliance with the applicable building codes, the insurance company denied her claim.  The insured then filed her breach of contract action.

While both the insured and the carrier agreed that the applicable statute of limitations was five years.  The parties disagreed on when the period began to run because of a statutory change in the interim between the date of loss and denial of the claim.  Florida Statutes Section 95.11(a) was amended while the claim was pending, changing the date of commencement of the statute of limitations from the date the cause of action accrued to the date of loss.  The insurance company contended that the change was retroactive, so the statute of limitation commenced on October 2005, which meant more than five years had passed.

The court reasoned that the statute of limitation cannot be retroactively shortened unless there is clear evidence that this was the intent of the Legislature.  The court found no evidence of such intent in the language of the statute or the legislative history.  Based on this lack of unambiguous legislative intent, the appellate court reversed the trial court.  The appellate court also rejected the Notice of Loss argument because the record did not establish that the insurance policy had a Notice of Loss provision.  

If you are battling with your homeowner’s insurance company because it refuses to pay your claim in a timely fashion, I may be able to help.  My law firm represents policyholders in claims disputes in Miami and throughout Florida.  The Law Firm of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A. offers free consultations and case evaluations.  No Recovery, No Lawyer Fees.  Call 305-461-1095 or Toll Free 1-866-71-CLAIM.

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