On Wednesday, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal issued an opinion affirming a trial court’s order compelling appraisal of a homeowners’ supplemental Hurricane Katrina claim.1 The insureds, the Cardelles, had filed claims with State Farm after Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma in 2005. After each hurricane the insureds reported property damage to State Farm. They obtained estimates from a contractor and their public adjuster and submitted sworn proofs of loss for each claim.
State Farm made payments to the Cardelles for $19,000 for the Hurricane Katrina claim and $31,000 for the Hurricane Wilma claim. While the Cardelles repaired their roof and made other minor repairs, the monies were not sufficient to fully repair the damages, particularly to the interior of the home. Therefore, four years later, in March 2010, the Cardelles hired a different public adjuster to pursue a supplemental claim on their behalf.
The public adjuster requested that State Farm re-open the claim and pay $127,000 additional in damages. The public adjuster listed the date of loss as August 25, 2010—the date Hurricane Katrina hit South Florida. State Farm acknowledged the request and notified the Cardelles of their post-loss obligations under the policy. State Farm requested photographic or video evidence of the damages, receipts and documentation of purchases and repairs, bank account statements showing expenditures, and an updated sworn proof of loss from the Cardelles to be made within 60 days of each letter.
State Farm’s belief was that the Cardelles were requesting payment for newly discovered damages already repaired. The Cardelles made their home available to State Farm for inspection. Because the Cardelles were claiming additional payment for the damages from the hurricanes they had not yet repaired, they submitted none of the requested documentation to State Farm.
When State Farm refused to pay the insureds any additional monies for the supplemental damages, the Cardelles commenced a lawsuit against State Farm for breach of the insurance policy for failure to pay the additional repair costs.
In the litigation, State Farm moved for summary judgment that the Cardelles had not complied with their post-loss obligations to provide requested documentation, including an updated sworn proof of loss.
The Cardelles moved to compel appraisal. The Cardelles attached to their motion a joint sworn proof of loss that stated they were requesting $117,297.53 in damages incurred as a result of Hurricane Katrina, but that they were not attaching any receipts, photos, or documentation with the claim.
At the hearing on the motion to compel appraisal which occurred 3 years later, the insured testified that the Cardelles had provided sworn proofs of loss—as well as documentation regarding damages and expenses (receipts, photos, etc.)—to State Farm immediately following Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma in 2005. He also testified that the Cardelles did not submit any of the documentation State Farm had requested because they “didn’t have anything else to send.”
The trial court ultimately held that the insureds’ supplemental claim was for the damages resulting from the 2005 claim, and not for the additional repairs that had been made. It also ruled that the Cardelles had sufficiently complied with the policy’s post-loss obligations. The court ordered a detailed appraisal to determine the amount of damages and the cause of each item of damage within ninety days. State Farm appealed the trial court’s order compelling appraisal.
The Third District Court of Appeal noted:
“A challenge to coverage is, as the Florida Supreme Court has confirmed, a matter for determination by a court; whereas, a challenge to the amount of a covered loss is for determination by an appraisal panel.” Citizens Prop. Ins. Corp. v. Mango Hill Condo. Ass’n 12 Inc., 54 So. 3d 578, 581 (Fla. 3d DCA 2011) (citing Johnson v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co., 828 So. 2d 1021, 1022 (Fla. 2002)). This Court has held on several occasions that the trial court may exercise its discretion when determining whether to compel appraisal of an insurance claim before determining whether the policy covers the claimed loss. See, e.g., id.; Sunshine State Ins. Co. v. Rawlins, 34 So. 3d 753, 754 (Fla. 3d DCA 2010) (citing Paradise Plaza Condo. Assoc. v. Reinsurance Corp. of New York, 685 So. 2d 937 (Fla. 3d DCA 1996) (en banc)). However, we have also held that “an ‘insured must comply with all of the policy’s post-loss obligations before the appraisal clause is triggered.’ ” Mango Hill 12, 54 So. 3d at 581 (quoting U.S. Fid. & Guar. Co. v. Romay, 744 So. 2d 467, 471 (Fla. 3d DCA 1999) (en banc)); see also First Home Ins. Co. v Fleurimond, 36 So. 3d 172, 174 (Fla. 3d DCA 2010). “Until these [post-loss obligation] conditions are met and the insurer has a reasonable opportunity to investigate and adjust the claim, there is no ‘disagreement’ (for purposes of the appraisal provision in the policy) regarding the value of the property or the amount of loss.” Citizens Prop. Ins. Corp. v. Galeria Villas Condo. Ass’n, 48 So. 3d 188, 191 (Fla. 3d DCA 2010).
The trial court in this case found that the Plaintiffs had “sufficiently complied” with the policy’s post-loss obligations, citing this Court’s opinion in Mango Hill 12. See 54 So. 3d at 582 (“Because [the trial court compelled appraisal without holding an evidentiary hearing to determine whether the insured had complied with his post-loss obligations], we reverse the order compelling appraisal and remand for an evidentiary hearing on whether [the insured] Mango Hill sufficiently complied with the policy’s post-loss requirements.” (emphasis added) (citing Corridori, 28 So. 3d at 131)). The trial court’s order seems to suggest that our Mango Hill 12 decision substantially changed the requisite standard to obtain appraisal to require something less than full compliance with all post-loss obligations, as had been mandated by our numerous past holdings. However, a full reading of Mango Hill 12, along with a litany of our other cases on this subject, confirms that “sufficient compliance” still requires that all post-loss obligations be satisfied before the trial court can properly exercise its discretion to compel appraisal. Id. (holding that “an ‘insured must comply with all of the policy’s post-loss obligations before the appraisal clause is triggered.’ ” (quoting Romay, 744 So. 2d at 471)); see also Citizens Prop. Ins. Corp. v. Gutierrez, 59 So. 3d 177, 179 (Fla. 3d DCA 2011) (citing Romay for that same proposition after Mango Hill 12 was issued).
Despite the confusion on which standard to apply, we cannot say that the trial court abused its discretion by compelling appraisal of the Plaintiffs’ claimed damages on these particular facts. State Farm admits that the Plaintiffs complied with all post-loss obligations immediately following the hurricanes in 2005, and the Plaintiffs have provided State Farm with an updated sworn proof of loss detailing all of the damages they are claiming. Moreover, because these damages are the same as those claimed from the original hurricane damage, State Farm already has all the required documentation of the damages, and the Plaintiffs have also agreed on many occasions to open their home to State Farm for further inspection of the damages. Thus, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by granting the Plaintiffs’ motion to compel appraisal.
1 State Farm Florida Ins. Co. v. Cardelles, Case No. 3D14-0241 (Fla. 3d DCA February 25, 2015).