Hurricane Irma struck over six years ago. A policyholder who could not obtain a fair recovery took the alternative to litigation by invoking appraisal. Little did the policyholder know that the insurance company would make a federal case out of the matter. The matter has been stagnant in federal court for years, trying to get the matter out of court and before an appraisal panel. Last week, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals held that parties could not challenge a judge’s ruling compelling the matter to appraisal.1 

The court held: 

Here, we conclude that the order compelling appraisal in this case is not a final order appealable under § 1291. In its order, the district court explicitly contemplated further proceedings, explaining that the appraisal would not dispose of any of the claims in the case nor Empire’s coverage defenses. Further, in Florida, ‘[a]ppraisal exists for a limited purpose—the determination of ‘the amount of the loss.’ ‘ Citizens Prop. Ins. Corp. v. Mango Hill #6 Condo. Ass’n, Inc., 117 So. 3d 1226, 1230 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2013). ‘[A]n agreement for appraisal extends merely to the resolution of the specific issues of actual cash value and ‘amount of loss,’ ‘ and ‘all issues other than those contractually assigned to the appraisal panel are reserved for determination in a plenary action.’

The court further held that even if the court considered it an appraisal under the Federal Arbitration Code, the Order compelling appraisal would not be an Order subject to appeal. 

The practical result will be an increase in the power of judges to move cases towards appraisal if a party demands the appraisal. It does not mean the award will be paid because coverage issues and other issues can be raised after the award, which the trial court will have to rule upon. 

Thought For The Day 

You have undertaken to cheat me. I won’t sue you, for the law is too slow. I’ll ruin you.

—Cornelius Vanderbilt

1 Positano Place at Naples I Condo. Assn. v. Empire Indemnity Ins. Co., No. 22-11059 (11th Cir. Oct. 20, 2023).