In recent weeks, there have not been as many published opinions and orders in Florida involving hurricane claims as there were a year or more ago. However, there was a recent case in the U.S. Middle District Court of Florida involving a Hurricane Wilma claim. It involved a familiar scenario where the insurer filed a motion asking the Court to dismiss the case claiming the policyholder’s complaint was barred by the statute of limitations, among other arguments.
In South Bay Plantation Condominium Association v. Seneca Insurance Company,1 the policyholder notified its insurer that the condominium association property sustained damage during Hurricane Wilma. On October 22, 2010, the association filed a complaint in Collier County, Florida, but failed to timely serve the insurer. On September 19, 2011, the association received an extension of 90 days to serve the insurer. On December 12, 2011, prior to service, the association filed a two-count Amended Complaint alleging breach of contract and requesting declaratory relief. The Amended Complaint also added a provision stating plaintiff is “also known as South Bay Plantation Associates, LLC.” The insurer was then served, and it removed the case to federal court on the basis of diversity of citizenship. The insurer filed its motion to dismiss in the federal court.
The insurer argued the Amended Complaint attempted to add a plaintiff to the action and, as a result, the amendment does not relate back to the original Complaint and was barred by the statute of limitations. The policyholder responded there is only one plaintiff in the action, and that it “added the ‘also known as’ to ensure clarity in the event Defendant might try to muddy the water.” The Court stated the policyholder’s use of the phrase itself muddies the water, but the Court denied the motion to dismiss and struck the language from the Amended Complaint.
The Court held there is only one plaintiff in the Amended Complaint—South Bay Plantation Condominium Association, Inc., and the insurer’s argument that it did not relate back to the original complaint was “not well founded.” The Court denied the motion to dismiss.
There were other issues raised by the insurer in support of its motion to dismiss the case, but ultimately, the insurer’s motion was denied and the case will proceed.