21 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 66a
Online Reference: FLWSUPP 2101GOLD
Where insureds’ policy clearly and unambiguously excludes stacking of
uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, and statute provides that limitations
accepted by insureds will continue unless insureds request deletion of
limitation and pay appropriate premium for additional coverage. insurer was not
obligated to provide stacking coverage at non-stacking rate when insureds
notified insurer that they wanted to revoke written election against stacked
coverage and insurer failed to provide premium statement showing increased
charge for increased coverage
Third-Party Defendants, v. STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY,
Defendant/Counter-Claimant and Third-Party Plaintiff. Circuit Court, 15th
Judicial Circuit in and for Palm Beach County, Circuit Civil Division. Case No.
50 2008 CA 6652 MB, Division AB. October 3, 2013. Jeffrey Dana Gillen, Judge.
GRANTING STATE FARM’S
opposing written motions for summary judgment. Before the Court were three
motions; two by STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY [hereinafter,
“State Farm”] and one by HOWARD and BETH GOLDING [hereinafter, “the Goldings”].
The Court’s oral ruling on State Farm’s June 10, 2013 motion disposed of the
Goldings’ motion.1 The Court reviewed the
transcript of the August 12, 2013 hearing and the two alternative proposed
orders, all three of which the Court received on September 25. The Court also
did its own research. Based on that review and research and for the reasons set
forth below, the Court grants State Farm’s summary-judgment motion.
the Fourth District instructed in Ara Yardum v. Andrew Scalese, et al.,
799 So. 2d 382, 383 (Fla. 4th DCA 2001) [26 Fla. L. Weekly D2713a], under
Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.510:
Summary judgment is proper only if there are no genuine issues of
material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
See Volusia County v. Aberdeen at Ormond Beach, L.P., 760 So. 2d 126, 130
(Fla. 2000) [25 Fla. L. Weekly S390a]. Where no genuine issue of material fact
is shown to exist, the only question for the appellate court is whether the
summary judgment was properly granted under the law. See Wesley Constr. Co.
v. Lane, 323 So. 2d 649, 650 (Fla. 3d DCA 1975). If even the slightest doubt
exists as to any issue of material fact, a summary judgment must be reversed.
See Beary v. Gay, 732 So. 2d 478, 480 (Fla. 5th DCA 1999) [25 Fla. L.
judgment sought shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings and summary
judgment evidence on file show that there is no genuine issue as to any material
fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.”
involving insurance-policy language and statute language.
in Washington National Insurance Corporation v. Sydelle Ruderman, et al.,
117 So. 3d 943 (Fla. 2013) [38 Fla. L. Weekly S511a], the Supreme Court
Where the language in an insurance contract is plain and
unambiguous, a court must interpret the policy in accordance with the plain
meaning so as to give effect to the policy as written. See State Farm Mut.
Auto. Ins. Co. v. Menendez, 70 So. 3d 566, 569-70 (Fla. 2011) [36 Fla. L.
Weekly S469a]. In construing insurance contracts, “courts should read each
policy as a whole, endeavoring to give every provision its full meaning and
operative effect.” U.S. Fire Ins. Co. v. J.S.U.B., Inc., 979 So. 2d 871,
877 (Fla. 2007) [32 Fla. L. Weekly S811a] (quoting Anderson, 756 So. 2d
at 34); see also Swire Pac. Holdings v. Zurich Ins. Co., 845 So. 2d 161,
166 (Fla. 2003) [28 Fla. L. Weekly S307d] (same). Courts should “avoid simply
concentrating on certain limited provisions to the exclusion of the totality of
others.” Id. at 165. However, “[p]olicy language is considered to be
ambiguous . . . if the language ‘is susceptible to more than one reasonable
interpretation, one providing coverage and the other limiting coverage.’ ”
Menendez, 70 So. 3d at 570 (quoting Travelers Indem. Co. v. PCR Inc.,
889 So. 2d 779, 785 (Fla. 2004) [29 Fla. L. Weekly S774a] (quoting Swire,
845 So. 2d at 165)).
As we stated in Berkshire Life Insurance Co. v. Adelberg, 698
So. 2d 828 (Fla. 1997), “[i]t has long been a tenet of Florida insurance law
that an insurer, as the writer of an insurance policy, is bound by the language
of the policy, which is to be construed liberally in favor of the insured and
strictly against the insurer.” Id. at 830. Thus where, as here, one
reasonable interpretation of the policy provisions would provide coverage, that
is the construction which must be adopted. We reiterated this special rule for
construction of insurance contracts in Taurus Holdings, Inc. v. U.S. Fid.
& Guar. Co., 913 So. 2d 528 (Fla. 2005) [30 Fla. L. Weekly S633a], where
Under Florida law, insurance contracts are construed according to
their plain meaning. Ambiguities are construed against the insurer and in favor
of coverage. As we recently said:
[W]e must follow the guiding principle that this Court has
consistently applied that insurance contracts must be construed in accordance
with the plain language of the policy. Further, we consider that “[i]f the
relevant policy language is susceptible to more than one reasonable
interpretation, one providing coverage and the [other] limiting coverage, the
insurance policy is considered ambiguous.” An ambiguous provision is construed
in favor of the insured and strictly against the drafter. Taurus Holdings,
913 So. 2d at 532 (quoting Swire, 845 So. 2d at 165 (citations
omitted) (quoting Anderson, 756 So. 2d at 34.)).
Court concludes that the policies’ language, particularly the declarations page,
makes it clear that all three of the automobile policies the Goldings had with
State Farm, including the one covering and in force for the vehicle involved in
the January 12, 2007 accident, clearly and unambiguously excluded stacking of
and susceptible to more than one interpretation, the language of the applicable
statute is not.
(Fla. 2009) [34 Fla. L. Weekly S449a] the Supreme Court reminded:
This issue is one of statutory interpretation; accordingly, our
review is de novo. Heart of Adoptions, Inc. v. J.A., 963 So. 2d 189, 194
(Fla. 2007) [32 Fla. L. Weekly S445a]. Legislative intent guides statutory
analysis, and to discern that intent we must look first to the language of the
statute and its plain meaning. Knowles v. Beverly Enterprises-Florida, Inc.,
898 So. 2d 1, 5 (Fla. 2004) [30 Fla. L. Weekly S788a]. Where the statute’s
language is clear or unambiguous, courts need not employ principles of statutory
construction to determine and effectuate legislative intent. See Polite v.
State, 973 So. 2d 1107, 1111 (Fla. 2007) [33 Fla. L. Weekly S69a]; Holly
v. Auld, 450 So. 2d 217, 219 (Fla. 1984). Further, “[i]t is axiomatic that
all parts of a statute must be read together in order to achieve a consistent
whole.” Forsythe v. Longboat Key Beach Erosion Control Dist., 604 So. 2d
452, 455 (Fla. 1992).
In connection with the offer authorized by this subsection, insurers
shall inform the named insured, applicant, or lessee, on a form approved by the
office, of the limitations imposed under this subsection and that such coverage
is an alternative to coverage without such limitations. If this form is signed
by a named insured, applicant, or lessee, it shall be conclusively presumed that
there was an informed, knowing acceptance of such limitations on behalf of all
insureds. When the named insured, applicant, or lessee has initially accepted
such limitations, such acceptance shall apply to any policy which renews,
extends, changes, supersedes, or replaces an existing policy unless the named
insured requests deletion of such limitations and pays the appropriate
premium for such coverage.
favorable to them, the Goldings argued that once Mr. Golding orally notified
State Farm that he wanted to revoke his written election against stacked
coverage, especially where State Farm did not provide the Goldings with a
premium statement showing an increased charge for the increased coverage, State
Farm was “stuck with giving stacking coverage at the non-stacking rate.” [T
73-74]3 That argument, however, flies in
the face of the unambiguous language of § 627.727(9) to which this Court must
ascribe its plain meaning.
judgment is granted and the Golding’s competing motion for summary judgment is
on State Farm’s July 22, 2013 motion.
in the light most favorable to the Goldings, even though the Goldings claim to
have orally revoked their previous election against stacking, that change
preceded the accident by approximately two-and-a-half years and it is undisputed
that the Goldings received policy renewal notices clearly showing that the
coverage was not stacked.
Court that there is case law supporting this theory, [T 67] they provided none
and the Court’s research disclosed none.
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