Chartwell partner Jorge Cruz-Bustillo recently won a major victory for client Universal North America Insurance Co. (“Universal”) in the Circuit Court of the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit (Broward County). On March 16, 2023, the court entered summary judgment in favor of Universal finding that the plaintiff failed to meet its initial burden of proof to create a question of material fact on the issue of causation.
The insured had filed a Tropical Storm Eta claim. The first notice of the claim was timely, the property was inspected by an adjuster, and Universal found coverage for certain interior damages only. The plaintiff filed suit arguing that this was a price and scope case because Universal had waived coverage as a defense. The court disagreed, concluding that the coverage defense was not waived because the plaintiff could not rely on the doctrines of waiver or estoppel to extend or create coverage.
The court examined the affidavit provided by the plaintiff’s expert, a licensed Florida engineer. The court held that any expert on causation was required to establish two elements: (1) the actual wind speeds at the location of the property, and (2) an opening in the roof, along with a description the opening, and a discernable factually based chain of underlying reasoning to explain how the opening was actually created by a wind event on the date of loss.
The court found that the expert’s affidavit did not include any wind speeds, and therefore, the expert was unable to offer any opinion on causation. According to the court, even if the expert could establish the relevant wind speeds, the affidavit still lacked the facts necessary to meet the legal test for causation required to create a question of material fact. The court entered summary judgment in favor of Universal.