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.
As part of his pursuit of a Masters of Law (LLM) in Insurance Law, Michael Cassel has recently completed his dissertation on Sebo v. American Home Assurance and its effect on Florida's Multiple Peril Loss analysis.
Hillary Cassel, Michael Cassel, and Alex Zatik have all been featured in the 2021 edition of Florida Super Lawyers Magazine. Hillary was named as a Florida Super Lawyer for the first time after six consecutive years as a Rising Star. Michael and Alex were both named as Rising Stars. This marks the fifth consecutive year for Michael and the first year for Alex.
Analysis and Interpretation by Michael A. Cassel
On April 24, 2019, and, again, on March 16, 2020, we published articles regarding the decisions in Alvarez v. State Farm and Beseler v. Avatar, respectively. 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.
More recently, on March 26, 2021, the Fourth District Court of Appeal released their opinion in the matter of Jennifer Mezadieu v. Safepoint Insurance Company (hereinafter "Mezadieu"). In Mezadieu, the appellate court analyzed whether a material misrepresentation even without an element of intent was sufficient to void coverage under the concealment or fraud provision of the governing policy. While the Mezadieu court found that coverage could be voided without intent, it is the particular facts of the case that lend themselves to such a finding. Overall, the position outlined in our prior articles remains unchanged: 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.
Cassel & Cassel appears Amicus Curae on behalf of Florida Policyholders Cooperative in State Farm v. Sanders
Cassel & Cassel has joined the fight against insurance carriers taking advantage of insureds through the appraisal process addressed in State Farm Fla. Inc. Co. v. Sanders.
This week, Michael Cassel presented at the Windstorm Insurance Network ("WIND") 2021 Virtual Conference.
Michael Cassel presented to the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters ("FAPIA") 2020 Conference held virtually.
Last week, Michael Cassel presented in the 2020 Civil Remedies Webinar with the Florida Justice Association.
Michael Cassel has been named one of South Florida Business Journal's 40 Under 40 for 2020.
Hillary Cassel and Michael Cassel have both been named as 2020 Rising Stars by Super Lawyers Magazine. This marks the fourth consecutive year for Michael and sixth consecutive year for Hillary.