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Lloyd Oliver Hunt, et al. v. State Farm Florida Ins. Co., Case No. 4D13-272 (4th DCA)

In Hunt, the insured Plaintiffs’ home was damaged by Hurricane Wilma in 2005 at which time the home was insured by State Farm. Under the insurance policy, the Plaintiffs were required to provide State Farm with immediate notice of any loss, and submit a signed, sworn proof of loss within sixty days after the loss. The plaintiffs did not provide a signed, sworn proof of loss until about five years after the loss, just days before suit was filed. State Farm moved for summary judgment arguing the Plaintiffs breached their duties under the policy by not timely submitting a sworn proof of loss. The trial court agreed, finding the Plaintiffs had breached a condition precedent to coverage and failed to introduce any rebut that State Farm was prejudiced by their breach. Summary judgment was entered in State Farm’s favor.

The Fourth DCA agreed with the trial court’s ruling. “It is well settled in Florida that submission of a sworn proof of loss when required by an insurance policy is a condition precedent to coverage.” The Fourth DCA found that if an insurer fails to comply with a condition precedent before filing suit, the breach is material, and the insurer is relieved of its duties under the policy. “However, if the insured complied with the policy’s conditions precedent before filing suit, albeit in an untimely manner, the insurer is only relieved of its duties under the policy if it was prejudiced by the insured’s breach.” In such circumstances, prejudice to the insurer is presumed, and the burden to rebut the presumption rests with the Plaintiffs. The Fourth DCA found that the Plaintiffs came forward with no evidence rebutting the prejudice to State Farm.

The Hunt Court distinguished the Florida Supreme Court’s recent ruling in State Farm Mutual Auto Ins. Co. v. Curran by noting that Curran clarified the standards applicable to an insured’s breach of condition subsequent to coverage, not a condition precedent.

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