An opinion was filed by the Second District Court of Appeals on December 30, 2011 in the case of Cruz and Chirino v. Cooperative De Seguros Multiples De Puerto Rico. The facts of the case are relatively standard in that the homeowner disputed their attendance at neutral evaluation and challenged the constitutionality in front of Judge Michelle Sisco in Tampa, Hillsborough County. Judge Sisco ruled the statute was not unconstitutional and ordered the sides to attend the neutral evaluation conference. The homeowners, through their counsel, appealed the issue to the Second DCA. The Second DCA is essentially the supervisor of Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco County state level judges. In addition to the big three counties, the Second DCA also includes Hardee, Highlands, Polk, DeSoto, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Glades, Collier, Hendry and Lee Counties. As you can see, whenever a decision comes out of this Court, it has far reaching impacts on a lot of people. Generally, the local State court judges that preside in these Even if you don’t have a great score there are still attainable deals. counties are bound to follow the decision that the Second DCA above them has rendered. In other words, any one is these counties can pretty much forget about fighting neutral evaluation anymore based upon it being unconstitutional. Other counties such as Marion, Alachua and Hernando sit in the Fifth DCA which has not ruled on this issue. We would not expect the result to be any different however as issues like this seem to receive more uniform decisions around the state.
The Second DCA essentially noted that attending neutral evaluation does not create an irreparable harm as it is non-binding and the admissibility of the report can still be argued later down the road. The Court also noted that the fact that neutral evaluation stays any lawsuit for a period of up to 90 days does not infringe on homeowners rights as the NEP process is designed to help resolve lawsuits.