If an insured fails to provide prompt notice of its property loss, it can often be grounds for denial of coverage. Most policies have a provision that notice be given promptly, immediately, or as soon as practicable. The question then becomes what is “prompt notice”? In PDQ Coolidge Formad, LLC v. Landmark American Insurance Company,1 an insured, PDQ Coolidge Formad, LLC (“PDQ”) owned an apartment complex named Washington Shores in Orlando, Florida. Washington Shores sustained severe roof damage resulting from Tropical Storm Fay on August 20, 2008. Paragraph 3a.(2) of the insured’s Policy provided that in the event of loss or damage, PDQ was required to give Landmark “prompt notice of the loss or damage.” (emphasis added)
After the storm, PDQ notified its insurer, Landmark American Insurance Company (“Landmark”) of damages for other properties it owned, but did not notify Landmark of its claim for damages to the Washington Shores property until it sent a letter in February 2009 stating its intent to make a claim. Once Landmark was notified of the claim, it sent its engineer to inspect the property. The engineer determined that the roof damage could not be attributable to wind from the tropical storm. Landmark denied PDQ’s claim on the basis that PDQ failed to provide Landmark with “timely” notice under the policy. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that the phrase “prompt notice” in the policy was not ambiguous and meant that notice must be given with reasonable dispatch and within a reasonable time in view of all the facts and circumstances. Because PDQ knew about the alleged damage and had promptly notified Landmark about storm damage to its other properties, the court affirmed the trial court’s conclusion that the 6 month delay was not “prompt”:2
To begin with, Florida cases involving notice provisions similar to the one here have held that a six-month or less period is considered late notice. See Morton, 137 So.2d at 620 (six and one-half months); Ideal, 400 So.2d at 783 (six weeks); Deese v. Hartford Accident & Indemnity Co., 205 So.2d 328, 329 (Fla. 1 st DCA 1967) (four weeks); compare Tiedtke v. Fidelity & Cas. Co. of NY, 222 So.2d 206 (Fla.1969), quashing Fidelity & Cas. Co. of N.Y. v. Tiedtke, 207 So.2d 40 (Fla. 4th DCA 1968) (four months). Not only did PDQ fail to give notice about damage to the Property for about six months, it is undisputed that PDQ promptly provided notice to Landmark for its claims and losses to other nearby property also damaged by Tropical Storm Fay. Yet PDQ does not explain why it gave notice for the other properties and failed to mention Washington Shores. The record also indicates that PDQ was aware of the damage at the Property, because it supposedly tarped some of the roofs at the Property right after the storm and PDQ’s property manager Ellen Darland testified that she had received immediate complaints from the Property’s tenants about roof leaks. On this record—which reveals that PDQ knew about the damage to the Property and knew how to promptly notify Landmark about damage to other properties but nevertheless failed to provide notice concerning the Property for approximately six months—we conclude the district court did not err in concluding that no reasonable interpretation of the record created a genuine dispute of material fact concerning whether the notice concerning the Property was timely.
It is in a policyholder’s best interest to identify and report to the insurance company any property damage claims as soon as possible. This may be necessary to comply with any policy provisions concerning “prompt” notice, however it is also important so that the claim may be thoroughly investigated and handled effectively.