Our firm has two cases that are being prepared for appeals currently against Tower Hill. One is a Pasco County case wherein the judge denied our Motion for Confession of Judgment which would trigger entitlement to attorney fees and then ordered that the insurance company did not breach the contract even though it initially denied the claim and then accepted the claim after the lawsuit. The rationale is that as long as an insurance company follows the statutory guidelines for investigating the claim, they can’t be found to have done anything wrong. This is a dangerous ruling for all Florida insureds on many levels. First, the “statutory guidelines” for investigating a sinkhole claim quite literally say nothing more than the insurance company has to hire an engineering firm to determine whether sinkhole activity exists. At its core, this means as long as the insurance company can prove it picked up the phone and hired a licensed engineer, it will be completely absolved from any further liability. Second, all the “statutory guidelines” tell the engineer they have to do is enough testing which, in their own opinion, is sufficient to determine whether sinkhole activity exists or not. Again, can we see the inherent danger of this? Every engineer who has ever tested a property will testify that in their own opinion they did sufficient testing. This ruling would essentially allow insurance companies and the engineers they hire to perform lackluster investigations and deny the claim and then just sit back and laugh about it.
The second case is out of Hernando County. In this case the judge denied a motion for attorney fees even though the facts and the pleadings clearly show the homeowner through our law firm prevailed. The insurance companies engineer provided a basic repair plan and our firm disputed the repair plan through the opinions of anther engineer. In pleadings, the insurance company denied that they owed any more money or that their repair plan was incomplete then demanded neutral evaluation. The neutral evaluator completely adopted the opinions of the expert hired by our firm and Tower Hill threw in the towel on that issue. Despite all this, the judge still denied the request for attorney fees finding the insurance company did not necessarily “do anything wrong”. In short, this is starting to get ridiculous and there needs to be some balance brought to these cases. Hopefully a couple successful appeals will help do that.