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Florida Second DCA rules that trial court erred in dismissing plaintiff’s declaratory judgment claim in first party property insurance dispute, finding that lack of ambiguity in contract did not bar plaintiff from seeking declaratory judgment as alternative to breach of contract lawsuit

On May 18, 2022, in Cintron v. Edison Insurance Company, No. 2D21-1334, the Florida Second DCA reversed a trial court’s dismissal of a plaintiff’s declaratory judgment complaint. The complaint alleged that the defendant property insurer wrongly rejected the plaintiff’s claim for loss from damages allegedly caused to the plaintiff’s home by Hurricane Irma. The trial court had granted the defendant insurance company’s motion to dismiss the declaratory judgment complaint on the bases that (1) it failed to state a cause of action, (2) there was no ambiguous policy language requiring construction, and (3) the plaintiffs had an adequate remedy at law, i.e., an action for breach of the insurance contract. The Second DCA stated that the availability of declaratory relief is not contingent on the existence of purportedly ambiguous policy language, noting that Florida Supreme Court made clear in Higgins v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co., 894 So. 2d 5, 12 (Fla. 2004), that although declaratory relief is available to resolve such ambiguity, it is not available only to resolve such ambiguity. The Second DCA further noted that Fla. Stat. § 86.111 unequivocally states that “[t] The existence of another adequate remedy does not preclude a judgment for declaratory relief."