Neil Rose Involved in Florida Supreme Court Decision on Interpreting Insurance Policies
As co-counsel on appeal, Neil Rose successfully represented the insureds in a class action controversy concerning the application of an escalation clause in a home health care policy. In Wash. Nat'l Ins. Corp. v. Ruderman, 117 So.3d 943 (Fla. 2013), the Florida Supreme Court held that under Florida law regarding the construction of insurance policies, when a policy is ambiguous it must be construed against the insurer and in favor of coverage without resort to consideration of extrinsic evidence. The case resulted from certified questions from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal. The Eleventh Circuit expressed doubt that Florida law was settled on whether an ambiguous insurance policy should be strictly construed against the insurer or whether extrinsic evidence must first be allowed in an attempt to clarify any potential ambiguity.
The Supreme Court reviewed the rules used to construe an insurance policy. Where the language in an insurance contract is plain and unambiguous, a court must interpret the policy in accordance with the plain meaning so as to give effect to the policy as written. Courts should read each policy as a whole, endeavoring to give every provision its full meaning and operative effect. Policy language is considered ambiguous if the language is susceptible to more than one reasonable interpretation, one providing coverage and the other limiting coverage.
Clarifying and confirming its prior decisions, the Supreme Court explained that where the provisions of an insurance policy are at issue, any ambiguity which remains after reading each policy as whole and endeavoring to give every provision its full meaning and operative effect must be liberally construed in favor of coverage and strictly against the insurer. Thus, because the policy is ambiguous, under Florida law it must construed against the insurer and in favor of coverage without resort to consideration of extrinsic evidence.
A copy of this opinion can be found here.