Southern District of Florida Holds UIM Benefits Case Must be Adjudicated Before Bad Faith Insurance Claim May be Considered

In Shapiro v. Government Employees Insurance Co., a couple was seriously injured in a Florida automobile accident that was caused by an uninsured motorist. At the time of the collision, the hurt individuals maintained an uninsured and underinsured motorist (“UIM”) policy on each of their vehicles. Following the automobile crash, the couple sought financial compensation from their UIM insurer. Unfortunately, the insurance company refused to pay the couple damages for the harm each sustained in the traffic wreck. As a result, the couple filed a claim for UIM benefits in Broward County. The couple also sought a declaratory judgment under Sections 86.011 and 86.111 of the Florida Statutes and accused their UIM insurer of committing bad faith.

In response to the couple’s complaint, the insurance company removed the lawsuit to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, based on diversity of citizenship. After that, the company filed a motion to dismiss the couple’s bad faith claim as well as their request for a declaratory judgment.

First, the Southern District of Florida stated a civil complaint must provide a “short and plain” statement that indicates the plaintiff is entitled to relief in order to survive a motion to dismiss. Although detailed facts are not required, a plaintiff must allege sufficient information to state a plausible claim on the face of the complaint. The court added that it must accept the statements made in the complaint as true when reviewing a motion to dismiss.

Next, the federal court considered the UIM insurer’s motion. According to the insurance company, the couple’s bad faith claim was premature under Section 624.155 of the Florida Statutes because the underlying contract claim was not yet decided. In addition, the UIM insurer argued that the plaintiffs’ request for a declaratory judgment was duplicative and essentially reiterated their claim for UIM benefits. The couple responded by stating their bad faith claim should be abated rather than dismissed.

Since the underlying action was not yet resolved, the Southern District of Florida held that the couple’s bad faith claim against the insurance company was not ripe for review. The court stated that judicial economy and the insurer’s failure to provide a persuasive reason why the matter should not be abated led it to rule that the plaintiffs’ bad faith claim would be abated rather than dismissed.

After that, the federal court turned to the couple’s request for a declaratory judgment. According to the court, the plaintiffs’ request incorrectly applied the law, was duplicative, and was based on a Florida procedural statute that does not provide plaintiffs with substantive rights. In addition, the federal court stated that Florida’s procedural rules do not apply to a case being reviewed by a federal court based on diversity of citizenship. Since the couple’s underlying UIM benefits claim must be decided before a declaratory judgment claim may be filed, the federal court dismissed the couple’s request.

Successfully navigating the legal system following a traumatic motor vehicle accident can be tough. If you or someone you love was severely injured in a Miami automobile collision that was caused by a negligent driver, you need a seasoned attorney on your side to help you protect your rights. To speak with a dedicated personal injury advocate about your traffic wreck injury today, call the caring lawyers at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. at (305) 448-8585 or contact us through our website.

Additional Resources:

Shapiro v. Government Employees Insurance Co., Dist. Court, SD Florida 2015

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