Analysis of New Case Law re: Intent as an Element when Voiding Coverage based on False Statements or Material Misrepresentations
What was once a trilogy has become a tetralogy. On April 24, 2019, March 16, 2020, and April 1, 2021, we published articles regarding the decisions in Alvarez v. State Farm, Beseler v. Avatar, and Mezadieu v. Safepoint, respectively, on the topic of material misrepresentations voiding coverage under insurance policies. The Alvarez opinion was being used for the proposition that an allegedly overinflated estimate is de facto fraud/material misrepresentation. We argued that this was not the case due to established case law culminating in the holding in Beseler. This position was somewhat vindicated after the release of the Mezadieu opinion where the court found intent was not required when the misrepresentation was material in light of extenuating circumstances wherein the insured testified that she knew $11,000 of the total estimated amount should not have been in there. It was and is our argument that the Mezadieu court ignored analysis of this fact in reaching their holding.
Most recently, on June 2, 2021, the Fourth District Court of Appeal released their opinion in the matter of Anchor Property and Casualty Insurance Company v. Alex Trif and George Trif (hereinafter "Trif"). In Trif, the appellate court performed an in depth analysis regarding the requirement for intent when an insurance carrier seeks to utilize the concealment or fraud provision to void coverage. In doing so, the Trif court distinguished Mezadieu in a manner similar to that of our prior analysis. Once again, we stand firm and confident in our argument that simply because an estimate is unilaterally deemed to be too high by an insurance company either in scope or price does not mean the insured has committed fraud or put forth a material misrepresentation sufficient to void coverage.