February 20, 2014
305-670-1101 Ext. 1023
Sinkhole Loss / First Party Property Claim
TAMPA, Florida – Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer, P.A. trial attorneys Judd A. Goodall (firstname.lastname@example.org) a partner in the Tampa office and J. Andrew Talbert (email@example.com) a partner in the Pensacola Office achieved a defense verdict on behalf of Citizens Property Insurance Corporation (Citizens) on a sinkhole loss claim.
Plaintiff alleged defendant wrongfully denied his claim. Plaintiff owned a home in Tampa (Hillsborough County) which he claimed sustained structural damage as a result of sinkhole activity. The policy provided coverage for “structural damage” caused by “sinkhole activity” during the policy period; however, the policy did not define the term “structural damage.” Citizens denied the claim after a structural evaluation determined no structural damage existed, but without conducting subsurface testing. After Citizens denied the claim, plaintiff’s experts concluded structural damage did exist, and conducted subsurface testing which they contended confirmed sinkhole activity was present.
Photographs and Citizens’ own post-claim inspection documented widespread cracking in walls, ceilings and foundation, as well as sporadic delamination. The presentation of the case at trial involved numerous experts contesting the existence of structural damage and sinkhole activity.
The defense successfully argued the 2007 policy provided sinkhole loss coverage as a “named peril” pursuant to endorsement, and that plaintiff bore the burden of proof to establish 1) structural damage had occurred; 2) during the policy period; and, 3) due to sinkhole activity.
The jury deliberated just over three hours, ultimately concluding plaintiff failed to prove structural damage had occurred due to sinkhole activity.