An insured should be aware that the same term in one homeowner's insurance may have a different interpretation in another homeowner's insurance. Goldberg v. Universal Property is an excellent example of such a case. 1
In Goldberg after an insured repeated hurricane damage to his condominium, he filed a homeowner's insurance claiming internal damage, which included damage to his personal property. The carrier then inspected his home but only issued cover for the insured's home (cover A) and denied that any of his personal property was covered by the insurance (cover C).
In response, the insured claimed that he had a proposal showing damage to his home exceeded the carrier's estimate. Here is the relevant insurance provision:
You must notify us of a claim, an additional claim or reopened claim for loss or damage caused by the risk of storm or hurricane, in accordance with the terms of this policy and within three years after the hurricane first landed or the windstorm caused the covered damage. In this section, the term "supplementary claim" or "reopened claim" refers to any additional claim for recovery from us for losses from the same hurricane or storm that we have previously adjusted according to the original claim. …  2
Although the carrier asked him to provide more information under this insurance language, the insured never provided a competing proposal showing further damage to his home and never provided an inventory listing his damaged personal property.
The insured then received legal counsel requesting various categories of documents from the carrier. His lawyer also did not submit a competing estimate that showed damage to the insured's home or to his personal property. When the carrier did not respond to the insured's request for documents, the insured lodged a complaint with a bill claiming that the carrier had breached its contract by failing to pay for all benefits due on the insurance. During the trial, the carrier moved for a summary judgment claiming that the insured did not file an estimate or a supplementary claim before filing a lawsuit. After examining the parties' arguments, the Court upheld the carrier's request for a summary judgment.
An appeal before the Fourth Court of Appeal followed. A question before the Court of Appeal was whether the insured had to submit a supplementary claim before submitting an application for the additional payment for the loss to the home under coverage A. In analyzing the positions of both parties, the court of law noted the different interpretations. of the concept of "supplementary claims" that existed among various homeowners insurance but found "no action" clause in question in this case required the insured to file a supplementary claim for damages to the home before applying. The Court's opinion stated:
The policy, in this case, states that one of the insured's obligations after loss is to notify Universal of an "additional claim" caused by the danger of storm or hurricane within three years of the storm landing. . The policy defines a "supplementary requirement" in this section as "any additional claim for recovery from us for losses from the same hurricane or windstorm that we have previously adjusted according to the original claim." 3
With regard to the insured's claim to submit a supplementary claim for his personal property damage, the Board of Appeal achieved a different result. The court found that since the carrier did not pay any amount for the insured's personal loss of property, those documents constituted a denial of coverage and a waiver of its right to insist that the insured meet the insurance requirements.
Overall, the Court's holdings demonstrate the need for insured persons to be aware of the relevant language of their policy, and the importance of not assuming that each policy term will be interpreted in the same way in all circumstances.
1 Goldberg v. Universal Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co. 302 So. 3d 919, 925 (Fla. 4th DCA 2020).
2 Goldberg 302 So. 3d at 920-21 (emphasis added).
3 Goldberg 302 So. 3d at 923.