Third DCA Finds Insurer Entitled to Directed Verdict When Insured Did Not Reside at the Insured Property at the Time of Loss
By Zachary D. Sonenblum
In Universal Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co. v. Gonzalez-Perez, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal held that an insurer was entitled to a directed verdict when the Insured did not reside at the Insured property at the time the Property suffered a loss due to vandalism.
By way of brief background, the Insured purchased the Insured Property in Miami in June 2013 and lived there until December 2014, when he began renting the property out to third parties. Thereafter, the Insured lived in Colorado for a year and a half and then moved into an apartment in Broward County, Florida in June of 2016. The Insured testified that he intended to return to the Insured Property in Miami after his tenants’ lease ended on May 1, 2017.
Notwithstanding his intentions to move back to the insured property, when the vandalism occurred on May 16, 2017, the Insured and his family were still living in Broward County, Florida, and his children were still enrolled at school in Broward County. The Court held that, as the Insured did not “reside” at the “residence premises at the time of the loss, […] the trial court should have excluded coverage as a matter of law.”
Importantly, the subject Insurance Policy defines “residence premises” as:
a. The one family dwelling, other structures, and grounds; or
b. That part of any other building;
where you reside and which is shown as the “residence premises” in the Declarations
Further, the Policy only covers “[v]andalism or malicious mischief” to the “residence premises.”
Accordingly, the undisputed evidence established that the Insured was still living in Broward, and therefore did not reside at the residence premises at the time the vandalism occurred. Since the Insured was not living at the residence premises at the time of the loss, coverage is excluded as a matter of law.
Ultimately, the Third DCA held that the trial court erred when it denied the insurer’s motion for directed verdict, reversed the final judgment previously entered in favor of the Insured, and remanded the case with directions to enter a directed verdict in favor of the insurer.