Fourth DCA Holds Insurer Entitled to Directed Verdict Against AOB Plaintiff Seeking Costs for Engineering Report
Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal recently held that an insurer was entitled to a directed verdict against plaintiff seeking to recover the costs associated with preparing an engineering report under an assignment of benefits under the insurance policy. In People’s Trust Ins. Co. v. Kidwell Group, the Fourth DCA held that the trial court erred by denying the insurer’s motion for a directed verdict against the AOB Plaintiff.
By way of brief background, the homeowner insured filed a claim for hurricane damage seeking a full roof replacement. The insured also hired a company to prepare an engineering report to opine on extent and cause of damage, and in exchange for the engineering report, the insured executed an assignment of benefits (“AOB”) contract with that company.
The insurance company admitted that a covered loss occurred and settled the claim with its insured for $30,000—an amount greater than the cost of the insured homeowner’s new roof. However, the insurer denied payment for the Plaintiff’s $3,500 invoice on the grounds that the engineering report’s cost is not covered under the Policy because 1) “it is not a physical loss to the property and is akin to a consulting fee not covered under the policy” and 2) “it is not a cost to repair or replace covered property.”
People’s Trust moved for a directed verdict twice—both times arguing that that the Plaintiff failed to present evidence that the engineering report was used for the repair or replacement of the roof, and thus failing to prove that the insurer breached the policy by refusing to pay the “cost to repair or replace” the roof as expressly provided by the policy. It remained undisputed from the outset of trial that the roofing company did not receive, review, or otherwise use the engineering report in the roof replacement project.
The Fourth DCA held that “[n]one of the evidence presented demonstrated that […] [the] engineering report was a ‘cost to repair or replace’ the roof. In fact, the evidence proved the opposite.” The Court ultimately reversed the trial court’s decision and remanded the case with directions to enter a directed verdict in favor of the insurer.
Zachary Sonenblum focuses his practice on civil litigation defense, with an emphasis in the area of first party property disputes. He is also experienced at insurance defense litigation.