ACFD achieved a major victory
The law firm of Alvarez, Carbonell, Feltman & Da Silva achieved a major victory for its client in an appeal before the Third District Court of Appeal on November 26, 2014. In Dynamic Public Adjusters v. Rodriguez, 3D13-2868, the Court of Appeal reversed a verdict of a disputed $400,000.00 fee for services provided to two condominiums in Key West Florida. The dispute originated when Citizens Property Insurance Corp. improperly denied two supplemental hurricane damage claims adjusted by Dynamic. After Citizens’ significant underpayment left the insured – a condominium association – unable to complete repairs, the insured hired Dynamic to assist in acquiring additional proceeds. The dispute that formed the basis of Dynamic v. Rodriguez occurred when Mr. Rodriguez, a former employee of Dynamic who worked on the supplemental claims after they had been adjusted by Dynamic, attempted to make off with the public adjusting fee belonging to Dynamic. Rodriguez argued that his contract superseded Dynamic’s contract. The trial in Key West resulted in a verdict in favor of Rodriguez.
It was then that Dynamic turned to the attorneys of Alvarez, Carbonell, Feltman & Da Silva for their expertise in first party insurance law, their knowledge of Florida statutes regulating insurance and adjusters and their experience and reputation in appellate advocacy. Paul Feltman, the law firm’s appellate partner, stated: “When I saw the contractual provision governing Dynamic’s public adjuster fee, I thought this was a case that should never have gone to trial. The judge should have entered judgment as a matter of law in favor of Dynamic.” Instead, the Circuit Court judge sitting in Key West held a trial and ruled that Mr. Rodriguez was entitled to the fee because of his involvement in the appraisal of the supplemental claims that took place after Citizens’ improper denial. The Circuit Court based its ruling on a provision in the Dynamic’s public adjusting contract that prevented a “clawback” on any prior payments made for the same claim.
“I read the agreement and that particular provision that the trial court focused on and I immediately recognized the language as being a Florida statute that governs public adjusters” said partner Leonardo Da Silva.
The statute referred to by Mr. Da Silva simply states that a public adjuster may only receive a fee for new monies paid on a supplemental claim; Dynamic’s agreement mirrored that statute. Unfortunately, the Circuit Court misconstrued the provision and interpreted it to mean that Dynamic would only be entitled to a fee if the claim was resolved in the adjustment phase not the subsequent appraisal. Thankfully, experience and tenacity won the day as the Third District Court of Appeal reviewed the Circuit Court’s ruling and reversed it in favor of Dynamic.
In reversing the verdict, the Court of Appeal remanded the case with instructions to enter judgment in the amount of $400,000.00 in favor of Dynamic and that Mr. Rodriguez would take nothing. “This is a very important win for Dynamic; not only do they get back the fees that they were always entitled to, but this ruling is also going to help our client get a victory in another case with the same issue arising out of a disputed fee,” stated the firm’s founding partner Benjamin Alvarez.
The Third District Court opinion can be found at this link: http://www.3dca.flcourts.org/Opinions/3D13-2868.pdf