Assignment of Benefits

The Arizona Court of Appeals in a recent opinion said, Yes to both. In Farmers Insurance Exchange v. Udall,1 four homeowners insured by Farmers Insurance Exchange (“Farmers”) sustained separate losses, which required water damage mitigation and restoration services. The homeowners hired a vendor to perform the mitigation and restoration services. In each case, the insureds assigned to the vendor their “rights, benefits, proceeds and causes of action” under their respective insurance policies.
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A handful of bills regarding proposed statutes concerning assignment of property insurance benefits were withdrawn from both houses of the Florida legislature this month. Each of the proposed laws were directed toward assignments entered into by property owners in exchange for the agreement of the assignee — typically a contractor — to complete the associated repairs for which the insurance benefits have not yet been paid, in whole or in part, by the carrier.
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I hope each and every one of you are in the midst of a wonderful holiday season! I am writing this blog from a food court in Toronto, Canada. While I am on a vacation to see family, the weather is making me rethink my life choices. It is currently 19 degrees. This Floridian is wearing more layers than I even knew you could pack on! I will be back in Florida in a few days—just in time to ring in the New Year. Soon thereafter, I will be heading back to Tallahassee for the start of the 2018 Legislative Session. Session officially begins on January 9th and ends on March 9th (unless a special session is called).
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Assignment of benefits is one of the hottest topics in Florida first party property insurance and it’s no secret that insurance carriers are not in favor of AOBs. Some insurance carriers, like Security First Insurance Company, tried to take matters into their own hands and add language into their homeowners, condominium unit owners and “dwelling fire” policies that would require the “insureds, additional insureds and mortgagees” named on a policy to consent to any post-loss assignment of benefits to a third party.
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In a prior blog, I discussed the California Supreme Court’s decision in Fluor Corporation v. Superior Court,1 regarding the post-loss assignment of insurance benefits. In Fluor, the California Supreme Court held that section 520 of California’s Insurance Code prohibits insurance companies from refusing to honor post-loss assignments of benefits, regardless of whether the assigned benefits (a) had accrued at the time of the assignment (i.e., constituted “Noncontingent Benefits”), or (b) had not yet accrued but could accrue if additional events occurred or additional conditions satisfied (i.e., constituted “Contingent Benefits”).
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As I and some of my colleagues have written about lately, in most states, after a covered loss has occurred, policyholders generally can assign the insurance benefits they’re entitled to receive in connection with that loss, despite language to the contrary in their policy. Following a devastating loss, such as the damage caused by the hurricanes that recently hit Texas and Florida, some policyholders are faced with the daunting task of rebuilding their homes, offices and other structures. Even if they’re fully insured for the cost of rebuilding their property, some policyholders may not want to or be able to. For some, the best—or only—choice may be to sell what’s left of their property.
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