In Government Employees Insurance Company v. Kisha, a Florida couple purchased automobile insurance from an insurer for a designated policy period of December 2010 through June 2011. In lieu of making one premium payment, the couple opted to make recurring monthly payments to the company. After the couple failed to pay their March 2011 premium, the insurer mailed them a notice of cancellation for nonpayment effective April 20. In addition, the notice stated the company would not cancel the couple’s auto policy if the past due premium was received or postmarked by this date.
The husband apparently wrote a check to the couple’s insurer on April 17, but the past due payment did not reach the postal service until April 25th. On May 8th, both members of the couple were apparently hurt in a rear-end car accident. Following treatment, each filed a claim for personal injury protection (“PIP”) benefits from the auto insurance company. Next, the insurer sent each member of the couple a reservation of rights letter stating they lacked motor vehicle insurance coverage on the date of the collision due to nonpayment. In response, the wife filed a lawsuit against the auto insurer.
Before the case went to trial, the insurer filed a motion to exclude evidence related to the length of time the couple were policyholders with the company. Since the woman was a customer for at least 17 years prior to the cancellation, the insurance company claimed the information was prejudicial. The insurer also argued the evidence was irrelevant. The wife countered that the information was required in order to establish her theories of waiver and estoppel. Ultimately, the trial court denied the insurer’s motion. After that, a jury found the company waived its right to deny PIP coverage to the woman and ruled it was estopped from doing so. As a result, the trial court issued a declaratory judgment in favor of the woman.
On appeal, the insurer argued the lower court committed error when it refused to exclude information related to the length of the woman’s customer relationship with the company. According to Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal, the information was not necessary to demonstrate a material fact and was therefore inadmissible under Section 90.401 of the Florida Statutes. The court stated the amount of time the couple were policyholders prior to cancellation of their coverage for non-payment did not show that the wife detrimentally relied on an act or omission of the insurance company. Since there was no evidence the insurer previously reinstated the couple’s policy after receiving a past due premium payment, the appellate court said their payment history was irrelevant.
Next, the Fifth District stated the wife’s counsel used the evidence at issue in order to gain sympathy from the jury. Because of this, Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal held that the irrelevant evidence deprived the insurance company of a fair trial and reversed the lower court’s judgment in the case.
If you or a family member was hurt in a South Florida traffic wreck, you need a seasoned personal injury lawyer on your side. To discuss your right to recover damages for your car accident injuries with a skillful Miami personal injury attorney today, give the experienced advocates at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. a call at (305) 448-8585 or contact us through our website.
Government Employees Insurance Company v. Kisha, Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 5th Dist. 2015
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