Citizens’ Immunity….The Current State of Law.
The Florida Legislature closed its 2014 session without amending the statutory language creating Citizens sovereign immunity. F.S. §627.351(6) (s). However, various courts have closely examined the statute and reached differing results as to whether its immunity bars a suit against Citizens brought under Florida’s Civil Remedy Statute F.S. §624.155.
The current state of the law is in flux. The 5th DCA determined Citizens is immune from a cause of action under F.S. 624.155. Citizens Prop. Ins. Corp. v Garfinkel, 25 So.3d 62, 5th DCA 12/18/2009. However, in January, 2014 in the 1st DCA the court held that Citizens is subject to a bad faith cause of action, recognized the conflict with the 5th DCA and certified the question as one of great public importance. Perdido Sun Condo v Citizens, Case No. ID13-1951, 1st DCA Fla. 1/23/2013. The Florida Supreme Court accepted jurisdiction (SC14-185, 3/26/2014) will now resolve the conflict by addressing the question certified by the 1st DCA
WHETHER THE IMMUNITY OF CITIZENS PROPERTY INSURANCE CORPORATION, AS PROVIDED IN SECTION 627.351(6)(S), FLORIDA STATUTES, SHIELDS THE CORPORATION FROM SUIT UNDER THE CAUSE OF ACTION CREATED BY SECTION 624.155(1)(B), FLORIDA STATUTES FOR NOT ATTEMPTING IN GOOD FAITH TO SETTLE CLAIMS?
The Supreme Court also stayed the 1st DCA opinion holding that a §624.155 action against Citizens is allowed under the willful tort exception to Citizens statutory immunity until it answers the certified question
In addition to the Garfinkel and Peridido Sun cases, a third case, Citizens Prop. Ins. Corp. v San Perdido 104 So.3rd 344 Fla. 11/15/2012 is related to the issue of Citizens Immunity. In San Perdido, the Florida Supreme Court held that the trial court’s order denying Citizens’ motion to dismiss a §624.155 action was a non-final order and not reviewable until the conclusion of the bad faith action.
In summary, interested parties are awaiting the pending Supreme Court opinion in Citizens v Perdido Sun to determine whether Citizens is subject to an action under 624.155 for the willful failure of not attempting in good faith to settle a claim. The case is currently being briefed and an opinion is not expected until late in 2014 or early 2015.