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Homeowners May Assign Post-Loss Rights to Third Parties, One Call Property Services v. Security First Ins. Co., Case No. 1D14-1864 (1st DCA 2015)

Florida state courts, over the last several years, have heard numerous cases dealing with the assignment of benefits by homeowners' insurance policyholders to third-party entities such as home repair companies without the approval of insurance companies. These entities file suit to recover benefits if the insurance companies fail to pay, either in part or wholly, according to the assigned rights. Florida courts seem to favor the assignability of benefits unless the language of the insurance policies prohibit the assignment, and therefore, insurance companies may be revising their policies to include language to that effect.

In One Call Property Services v. Security First Ins. Co., an insured homeowner, assigned insurance benefits to a third-party company that performed emergency services and property restoration work. The owner had experienced severe water damage on her property and asked the company to perform remediation and water removal, which the company completed. The owner executed the assignment of insurance benefits as payment for the company's services. However, the insurance firm failed to pay the remediation company adequately for its services, and therefore, the company filed a claim for breach of contract. The insurance company requested for the trial court to dismiss the suit contending that the insurance policy in question had a provision prohibiting assignment of benefits. Consequently, the policy prevented the remediation company from filing a lawsuit as an assignee. The trial court ruled in the insurance company's favor and dismissed the lawsuit, which the company appealed.

The First District Court of Appeals of Florida heard the company's appeal. In the Court's decision, it began its discussion by stating that Florida law permits individuals to assign contractual rights unless the contract itself forbid assignment, the contractual obligations are personal in nature, or other public policy considerations prevent the transfer of such rights. The Court additionally observed that Florida statutes permit the assignment of insurance policies depending upon those policies' terms. Finally, the Court indicated that in Florida, the right to sue to recover money or debt arising out of a contractual relationship is assignable in the state and that an assignee may sue in court for his or her name and rights. Insurance policy claims are no different, and therefore assignable. Therefore, unless an insurance policy forbids assignment, the Court ruled for the insured individual and the right to assign benefits.

The insurance company requested for a rehearing and for the First District Court of Appeals to certify the question of whether an insured person may assign post-loss benefits rights under an insurance policy without the insurance company's consent. The Court did not find any conflict between various Florida courts on the issue, and the Florida Supreme Court had decided the issue for assignability of post-loss benefits in prior cases. Therefore, the Court denied the insurance company's request.

The terms of an insurance policy may contain complex provisions that the parties interpret differently and form the basis for a dispute. If your insurance company denied your homeowner's insurance claim because of a provision in the policy and you believe the company's interpretation was wrong, the Miami homeowner's insurance lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano can provide the assistance you need to obtain favorable results. With over 130 combined years of experience representing homeowner's insurance clients across South Florida, our firm provides legal representation of unmatched excellence. Contact our firm as soon as possible to start on the road to protecting your legal rights. Our firm received an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell and was ranked as a top firm in South Florida by the Miami Herald. Put our exceptional personal injury attorneys to work on your case. Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or you can visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.

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