Episode 32 – Defense Attorneys’ Take on SB 76

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Florida’s new property insurance reform law takes effect on July 1.   While its intent is good, Florida policyholders are in desperate need for the law to have a significant impact on double-digit rate increases and questionable door-to-door solicitation practices.  Will it deliver?

Former Florida Deputy Insurance Commissioner Lisa Miller walks us through the details of Senate Bill 76 with two insurance defense lawyers who provide experienced analysis and perspective on each section of the new law, its likely impact, and the areas where legal conflicts may arise in its interpretation.  This is a must-listen to podcast for anyone in Florida’s property insurance industry.

Tom Diana, Esq., Co-Founder & Principal Partner, Zinober Diana & Monteverde

Michael Monteverde, Esq., Partner, Zinober Diana & Monteverde

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Show Notes

Lisa is joined by Tom Diana and Michael Monteverde of the award-winning Zinober Diana & Monteverde law firm with offices in Ft. Lauderdale, St. Petersburg, and Tampa.  Tom is a Co-Founder and Principal Partner of the firm.  He is a civil engineer turned lawyer whose main practice areas focus on insurance claims involving engineering and architectural experts, all matters related to construction, and coverage issues related to professional and general liability policies.  Michael is a Partner at the firm who focuses his practice on the litigation of complex construction defect matters, first- party and third-party insurance disputes, as well as insurance coverage matters, including high exposure bad faith claims.

This extended hour-long podcast walks through the new law from the 44-page Senate Bill 76 (SB 76), section by section, as follows:

489.147 Prohibited property insurance practices, which cover advertisements and solicitations by contractors and public adjusters and establishes contractors or unlicensed persons acting on their behalf may not solicit or incentivize a residential property owner to file a roof damage insurance claim.

624.424 Annual statement and other information, requiring insurance companies file an annual report with specific data regarding litigation of personal and commercial residential property insurance claims

626.7451 Managing general agents; required contract provisions and 626.7452 Managing general agents; examination authority, which clarifies that the Office of Insurance Regulation has the authority to examine MGAs, including insurers’ affiliates.

626.854 “Public adjuster” defined; prohibitions, establishes that a public adjuster, a public adjuster apprentice, or unlicensed persons acting on their behalf may not incentivize a residential property owner to file a roof damage insurance claim and has an “up to $10,000 fine” for violations.

626.9373 Attorney’s fees, regarding lawsuits not brought by an assignee, directing awards of reasonable attorney fees only as provided under two specific statutes.

627.428 Attorney fees, regarding lawsuits not brought by an assignee in judgment against an insurance company.

627.70132 Notice of property insurance claim, changes the notice of claim deadlines by requiring that any claim must be provided to a property insurer within two years of the date of loss and the policyholder then has another year to file a supplemental claim if needed.   

627.7015 Alternative procedure for resolution of disputed property insurance claims, creates new statutory requirements for residential or commercial property lawsuits that are not brought by an assignee, including a ten-day presuit notice and demand, before bringing suit against an insurance company.  The company has 10 days to respond in writing to such notices.  This section also broadens the current one-way attorney fee statute formula.  If the claimant recovers at least 50% of the disputed amount, full attorney fees would be awarded; less than 20%, then there would be no attorney fees.  Judgments between 20% and 50% would merit the same proportional attorney fee to the percentage of the disputed amount obtained.

627.70153 Consolidation of residential property insurance actions, requiring each party that is aware of multiple lawsuits pertaining to the same property address to notify the court, which may then order the actions be consolidated. 

628.801 Insurance holding companies; registration regulation, allowing further regulation of insurance holding companies to ascertain the financial condition of the insurer.

The podcast mentioned, but did not cover sections 627.351 Insurance risk apportionment plans and 627.3518 Citizens Property Insurance Corporation policyholder eligibility clearinghouse program regarding Citizens, the state-backed insurer of last resort.

This podcast was recorded on June 15, 2021, about two weeks before the new law’s July 1 effective date.  This program was produced as both a podcast and a video webinar.  While specific lines in the bill – now law – are mentioned, it’s not necessary for the listener to have the bill in front of them as they listen, as Lisa and her guests read aloud the pertinent language.    You may watch the video webinar here.

Also of note is Senate Bill 1598 (SB 1598), which was also signed into law, effective June 16, 2021.   The bill, in lines 171-177, clarify that a license is required to act as an insurance adjuster in the state of Florida.  Violations are a third-degree felony, punishable by fines up to $10,000 per occurrence.

Links and Resources Mentioned in this Episode

Florida Senate bill SB 76

Zinober Diana & Monteverde law firm 

Department of Financial Services Insurance Fraud Portal (to report unlicensed activity & other violations of SB 76 and SB 1598)

Florida Legislature 2021 Bill Watch summary (Lisa Miller & Associates)

Florida one-way attorney fee statute

Property Insurance Reform (The Florida Insurance Roundup podcast, May 23, 2021)

Florida’s Property Insurance Dilemma (The Florida Insurance Roundup podcast, March 26, 2021)

Assignment of Benefits & Insurance Litigation Webpage (Lisa Miller & Associates)

Tom Diana’s email is [email protected]

Michael Monteverde’s email is [email protected]

Video Webinar of this program

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