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Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals rules that Florida law, not maritime law, applies to determine the effect of plaintiff’s alleged breach of warranties in first-party maritime insurance case

On May 6, 2021, in Travelers Property Casualty Insurance Company of America v. Ocean Reef Charters LLC, No. 19-13690, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a U.S. district court summary judgment for the defendant insurance company in an action bought by its insured for the loss of a yacht covered under a marine insurance policy. The district court had concluded that under Eleventh Circuit precedent federal maritime law requires strict compliance with captain and crew warranties in a marine insurance policy, and because the plaintiff was determined to have breached those warranties, there was no coverage for the loss of its yacht under the policy. The Eleventh Circuit disagreed, concluding that there is no entrenched maritime rule governing captain or crew warranties, and that as a result Florida law applied to determine the effect of the plaintiff’s alleged breach of warranties.The Eleventh Circuit cited Wilburn Boat Co. v. Firearm’s Fund Ins. Co., 348 U.S. 310, 316 (1955), in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that that in the field of marine insurance state law should be applied where there is no established federal maritime rule governing the issue at hand.The Eleventh Circuit cited Fla. Stat. § 627.409(2) as the applicable Florida Statute that will need to be applied on remand.