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Florida Fifth DCA rules that civil remedy notice against insurance company was not filed prematurely when contractually mandated damage appraisal process was still pending

On January 26, 2018, in Landers v. State Farm, No. 5D15-4032, the Florida Fifth DCA reversed a trial summary judgment in favor an insurance company in a first party bad faith lawsuit involving a dispute over homeowners’ insurance coverage for sinkhole damage. The plaintiff had previously brought a breach of contract action against State Farm, and during the pendency of that action State Farm had tendered the policy limits. The plaintiff then sued State Farm for bad faith. The plaintiff had filed a Civil Remedy Notice (CRN) prior to filing the breach of contract action and after State Farm had demanded its contractual right to have the amount of the loss be set by appraisal. After the bad faith action was filed, State Farm successfully moved for summary judgment on the basis that when the CRN was filed there was no contractual amount due and no damages owed under the contract because a condition precedent to payment—determining the amount of loss through appraisal—had not been fulfilled. The Fifth DCA rejected this argument, noting that the case was controlled by Vest v. Travelers Insurance Co., 753 So. 2d 1270, 1275 (Fla. 2000), which held that there is no statutory requirement which prevents the insured from sending the CRN before there is a determination of liability or damages.