Choose a Topic

View Our Case Results
Kelley/Uustal Practice Areas

Geico Casualty Co. v. Antonio Barber, Case No. 5D14-427 (5th DCA)

In 2009, the Plaintiff filed suit against Geico for uninsured/underinsured motorist benefits following an automobile accident. Geico answered the complaint, and responded to a civil remedy notice, stating that based upon its investigation and review of the Plaintiff’s medical records, it would not offer policy limits of $10,000. After learning that the Plaintiff had undergone surgery several years later, Geico served a proposal for settlement under Rule 1.442 and Fla. Stat. 768.79. The Plaintiff rejected the proposal. Geico then filed a Notice of Confession of Judgment and Motion for Entry of Confessed Judgment, confessing judgment to the Plaintiff for its policy limits of $10,000 in lieu of a jury trial as all issues framed by the pleadings are rendered moot. Before the trial court ruled on Geico’s motion for entry of judgment, the Plaintiff filed a motion to amend his complaint to assert separate claims for UM benefits, violations of Fla. Stat. 624.155, and a declaratory judgment to determine liability and the total amount of damages sustained in the accident. The trial court entered an order granting Geico’s motion to enter judgment, and ruled that the Plaintiff may add a claim for declaratory relief but a claim for bad faith was not yet ripe. Geico appealed the trial court’s decision to permit an amended complaint seeking declaratory relief on determinations of liability and the total amount of damages.

Geico argued that after it confessed judgment, the trial court lacked jurisdiction to take any action other than to enter judgment in the amount of the UM policy limits in favor of the plaintiff. The Fifth DCA agreed.

In Safeco Insurance Co. v. Fridman, the Fifth DCA ruled that in a UM claim, where “no dispute exists as to the policy limits or available coverage and such limits are made known to the insured, the amount of the judgment against the insurer may not exceed the policy limits.” “A first party bad faith action is a separate and distinct cause of action.” In contrast to a claim for UM benefits, an insured who prevails on a bad faith claim may recover damages in excess of the policy limits. Based on Fridman, the Fifth DCA quashed the trial court’s order, finding that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to do anything more than enter Geico’s confessed judgment. The Fifth DCA noted, however, that the Plaintiff is not precluded from litigating the damages issue on his bad-faith claim, as that is separate and distinct from the Plaintiff’s contractual claim for UM benefits.

In a lengthy dissent, Judge Sawaya distinguished the Fridman noting that in Fridman there was no attempt to amend the plaintiff’s complaint to allege a bad faith claim after Safeco tendered its policy limits. Judge Sawaya cited to Safeco Insurance Co. of Illinois v. Rader, in which the First DCA held that when an insurer tenders the policy limits in an uninsured motorist case and the insured moves to amend the complaint to insert a count for bad faith, such an amendment is permissible because the trial court maintains jurisdiction to do so. The dissent notes that the Rader decision directly conflicts with the majority decision in this case, and Judge Sawaya write that the majority’s ruling conflicts with settled law.

Recognized as One of the Nation's Best Law Firms

Don't just take our word for it. See it for yourself.

Client Reviews & Testimonials
  • AV Peer Review Rated
  • Florida Super Lawyers
  • South Florida Top Rated Lawyers
  • Best Law Firms
  • The Best Lawyers in America
  • The National Trial Lawyers - Top 100 Trial Lawyers
  • South Florida Business Journal - 2017  Best Places to Work
  • Sun Sentinel - 2017 Top Work Places
© 2014 All Rights Reserved The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.