In Avatar Property & Casualty Insurance Company v. Castillo,1 the insurance company insisted that the insureds were required to produce examinations under oath (EUOs) for a handyman and water restoration employees, who were hired to perform repairs on their home.
The policy read:
2. Your Duties After Loss. In case of a loss to covered property, you must see that all of the following are done:
i. In the County where the “residence premises” is located you, your agents, your representatives, including any public adjuster engaged on your behalf, and any and all “insureds” must submit to [EUOs] and sign same when requested by us.
The insurers argued that the policy required the insureds to produce their “agents” and “representatives”, which according to the insurance company, included the handyman and the water restoration employees. The issue then became, who can an insurance company require to submit to an EUO?
When interpreting insurance contracts, courts have commonly relied upon references to supply the accepted meaning of words that may have more than one interpretation.2 Black’s Law Dictionary defines “agent” as “someone who is authorized to act for or in place of another; a representative.”3 Black’s Law Dictionary also defines “representative” as “someone who stands for or acts on behalf of another.”4
The court disagreed with the insurance company and held that the handyman and the water restoration employees were not “agents” or “representatives” under the dictionary definitions of those terms, as neither were authorized to act for or in place of the insureds. The court noted:
Where the provisions of an insurance policy are at issue, any ambiguity which remains after reading each policy as a whole and endeavoring to give every provision its full meaning and operative effect must be liberally construed in favor of [the insured] and strictly against the insurer. The insurer, as the policy’s drafter, easily could have added language including ‘any persons who inspected or repaired the covered property.’ For us to do so now would re-write the policy.5
The bottom line is that insurance companies cannot require handymen, laborers, or repair workers to attend an EUO. This makes sense since these people are not parties to the contract.
1 Avatar Property & Casualty Ins. Co. v. Castillo, 4D18-3154 (Fla. 3rd DCA Apr. 22, 2020).
2 Allstate Ins. Co. v. Orthopedic Specialists, 212 So. 3d 973, 975-76 (Fla. 2017).
3 Agent, Black’s Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019).
4 Representative, Black’s Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019).
5 Wash. Nat’l Ins. Corp. v. Ruderman, 117 So.3d 943 (Fla. 2013) .