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PRESS RELEASE: Florida Supreme Court Rules Against Large Insurance Company

On July 13, 2017, the Florida Supreme Court reviewed a decision from the First District Court of Appeals in Government Employees Insurance Co. v. Macedo, 190 So. 3d 1155 (Fla. 1st DCA 2016).

In this case, the ambiguity of a policy provision was susceptible to two reasonable interpretations, one provided coverage for attorney’s fees incurred as a result of the insurance carriers’ failure to settle and the other excluding such coverage. The First District Court found the policy language was ambiguous, thus providing coverage,  whereas the Second District Court found the “reasonable expenses incurred at our request” policy language was clear, making the insured responsible for the injured party’s attorney’s fees awarded from a failure to accept a settlement offer.  Unlike the First District’s opinion, the Second District did not account that the insured, Lombardo, had given his insurer, GEICO, the sole right to litigate and settle his claims.

The Florida Supreme Court approved the First District’s decision and ruled that the ambiguous Additional Payments section of the GEICO insurance policy must be construed to provide coverage for the costs and attorneys’ fees awarded against Lombardo pursuant to the offer of judgment statute.

“This is a victory for millions of insured Floridians who take to the road every day. Insurers cannot include ambiguous language in their contracts and use it to avoid coverage,” explained Dale Swope, Partner of Swope, Rodante P. A. “When insurers use terms such as ‘legal expenses’ in conjunction with ‘court costs’ and ‘all reasonable costs’ without actually defining them in the policy, of course the policy should be construed to provide coverage for the costs and attorney’s fees awarded.”

Attorneys Angela Rodante, Dale Swope, Stephanie Miles, and Darrell Hinson of Swope, Rodante P. A. worked with Elizabeth Munro of Florida Vanguard Attorneys, LLC for Respondent Zackery R. Lombardo.

Swope, Rodante P.A. is a civil trial practice firm with offices in Tampa, Florida and Decatur, Georgia. Practice areas include catastrophic personal injuries or wrongful death, insurance coverage disputes, and both first-party and third-party insurance bad faith actions. The firm’s team of experienced and knowledgeable attorneys and staff work with an unyielding commitment to protecting the rights of the injured and those who have been wronged by insurance companies. The firm has held a deep commitment to playing an active role in improving the community by donating tens of thousands of dollars every year to Hillsborough public high schools, awarding higher education scholarships and community service grants.

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