Florida Court Holds Insurer Not Estopped From Denying Pre-Tender Costs

by Traub Lieberman Straus & Shrewsberry LLP
Contact

In its recent decision in Embroidme.Com, Inc. v. Travelers Prop. Cas. Co. of Am., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7715 (S.D. Fla. Jan. 23, 2014), the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida had occasion to consider an insurer’s obligation to reimburse its insured for pre-tender defense costs under Florida law, and whether its disclaimer of such costs is governed by Florida Claims Administration Statute, Fla. Stat. § 627.426(2).

Travelers insured Embroidme.com under a general liability policy with web site injury protection.  Embroidme.com was named as a defendant in an underlying copyright infringement lawsuit in April 2010.  On June 28, 2010, Embroidme.com retained counsel to defend it in the lawsuit.  Embroidme.com, however, did not tender the matter to Travelers until October 2011.  Travelers subsequently agreed to provide its insured with a defense, but disclaimed any coverage obligation with respect to Embroidme.com’s pre-tender defense costs.  Embroidme.com challenged Travelers’ disclaimer of coverage on the basis that the policy did not expressly bar coverage for pre-tender costs and that Travelers’ disclaimer of coverage for such amounts was untimely and thus in violation of Florida Claims Administration Statute, § 627.426(2).

Florida Claims Administration Statute, § 627.426(2) states, in relevant part, that an insurer is estopped from denying coverage unless “(a) Within 30 days after the liability insurer knew or should have known of the coverage defense, written notice of reservation of rights to assert a coverage defense is given to the named insured by registered or certified mail sent to the last known address of the insured or by hand delivery.”  The statute also discusses the insurer’s obligation to disclaim coverage or provide an insured with a defense within sixty (60) days of filing of suit.  For the purpose of the statute, a “coverage defense” is defined as “a defense to coverage that otherwise exists.”

In considering the statute, the court found that Traveler’s coverage correspondence to Embroidme.com was late under the statute: its initial reservation of rights letter was issued forty-two (42) days after Embroidme.com’s initial tender, and Travelers did not actually retain counsel until another ninety-one (91) days later.  Thus, reasoned the court, if coverage for pre-tender defense costs could be considered a “coverage defense” for the purpose of the statute, then Travelers’ failure to issue its letters in a timely fashion would result in an estoppel of its right with respect to this defense.

The court nevertheless concluded that the pre-tender defense issue was not a “coverage defense,” but instead a policy condition.  In particular, the policy precluded the insured from “voluntarily assuming any obligation or incurring any expense without Travelers' consent.”  Thus, reasoned the court, “under the plain language of the Policy there is no coverage for the defense costs incurred without Travelers' knowledge and not at Travelers' request.”  This was not a “coverage defense,” but instead a precondition to coverage not subject to statutory estoppel under § 627.426(2).  As such, the court held in Travelers’ favor, concluding that its denial of coverage for pre-tender defense costs was appropriate and that Travelers’ delay in issuing coverage correspondence did not result in statutory estoppel.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Traub Lieberman Straus & Shrewsberry LLP | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Traub Lieberman Straus & Shrewsberry LLP
Contact
more
less

Traub Lieberman Straus & Shrewsberry LLP on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.