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Florida Legislature Passes First Party Property Reform

May 26, 2022

The Florida Legislature has passed SB 2-D. Below are highlights from the bill which could change first party property litigation:
 
1. Amendment to Section 489.147, Florida Statutes.  This amendment requires that advertisements by contractors encouraging someone to contact a contractor to make an insurance claim for roof damage must contain a statement in at least 12 point font and at least half as large as the largest font size used in the communication that:?(1) the insured is responsible for their policy deductible, (2) it is punishable as a felony in the third degree to waive or offer a rebate for the policy deductible, and (3) insurance fraud is punishable as a felony in the third degree to intentionally file a claim with false, incomplete or misleading information.
 
2. Creates Section 624.1551, Florida Statutes.  This Statute requires a policyholder first establish the insured carrier breached the insurance contract to prevail in a claim for extra contractual damages (a bad faith lawsuit).
 
3. Amendment to Section 627.428, Florida Statutes. This amendment prohibits transfer of a claim for attorney’s fees under a residential or commercial property insurance policy to anyone other than the named insured or named beneficiary.
 
4. Amendments to Section 627.701, Florida Statutes.  These amendments permit the use of a separate deductible for roof losses provided that a premium credit is provided and the insured signs documents confirming they understand that accepting a separate roof deductible may result in high out of pocket costs.  The roof deductible may not apply to a total loss of the structure, a hurricane, a loss resulting from a tree or other hazard falling on the roof and puncturing the roof deck, or when repair of less than 50 percent of the roof is needed.
 
5. Amendments to 627.70131, Florida Statutes, effective January 1, 2022. The significant change in this section requires an insurance company to provide an estimate of damages if requested by the insured.  However, the amendment makes clear that an insurance company is not required to create an estimate for all claims.  
 
6. Amendments to Section 627.70152, Florida Statutes (created by SB-76). The amendments allow for a Court to award an insurance carrier fees and costs when the claimant dismisses a case pursuant to the requirements of this Statute.
 
Additionally, the amendment creates a presumption that a lodestar attorney fee award is reasonable and sufficient. The presumption may be rebutted in rare and unusual circumstances where competent counsel could not be retained in a reasonable manner. This means that an attorney fee multiplier cannot be awarded without this showing.
 
7. Amendment to Section 627.7152, Florida Statutes (The AOB Statute).  The most significant portion of this amendment allows for an award of attorney’s fees and costs to an assignee only under Section 57.105, Florida Statutes.
 
Additionally, the types of services covered by the Statute are broadened to include services for inspection of the property under an assignment agreement.  This portion of the Statute appears to be in an effort to make clear that this Statute applies to “engineering inspections” which are the subject of significant litigation throughout the State.

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