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Third DCA rules that trial court erred in dismissing insurance company’s declaratory judgment action alleging that motor vehicle policy was void because of policy owner’s alleged failed to include household member in policy application as an additional driver

On November 10, 2021, in Imperial Fire & Casualty Insurance Company v. Acosta, et al., No. 3D21-0225, the Florida Third DCA reversed a trial court’s dismissal of an insurance declaratory judgment action in which the insurance company contended that that the motor vehicle insurance policy at issue was properly rescinded and did not provide coverage for an accident involving the named insured’s motor vehicle. While investigating insurance claims made under the policy by the driver and passengers of the vehicle, the insurance company allegedly learned that the owner of the policy had failed to disclose the driver as a household resident or an additional driver on the insurance application. Contending his failure constituted a material misrepresentation, the insurance company rescinded the policy and subsequently took the position in the declaratory judgment action that the policy was void ab initio. The insureds claimed that because the complaint inescapably yielded the conclusion that the insurance company was seeking a post hoc judicial ratification ofits past decision, any declaration would be merely advisory. The trial court sided with the insureds, found the claim for declaratory relief facially insufficient and granted dismissal. The Third DCA reversed after concluding that that the declaratory judgment action was aproper use of Florida’s Declaratory Judgment Act, codified in chapter 86 of the Florida Statutes. However, the Third DCA also quoted Supreme Court Justice Sebring in Stark v. Marshall: “[a]lthough our Declaratory Decree Act is broad in its scope and should be liberally construed in order to effectuate its purpose, it was never intended that it should supplant all other types of civil procedure known to our jurisprudence.” 67 So. 2d 235, 236 (Fla. 1953). The Third DCA added that “[i]n accord with this principle, our decision should not be construed as precluding the consolidation of this matter with the companion litigation.”