DCA Can’t Overturn Decision of Lower Court, Fla. Jury Decides Insurance Case

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The claim was settled, but the insurance attorneys uncovered more information, the plaintiffs’ attorney said.

An appeals court can’t be used to overturn lower court decisions, except through the usual appellate process, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday in a case involving some well-known insurance companies and more than $800,000 in attorney’s fees for the plaintiff.

The case of Mintz Truppman vs. Cozen O’Connor and Lexington Insurance Co. It started as a Miami complaint but turned into a lawsuit involving confidential arbitration. The case has been going through federal and state courts for eight years, although the original ruling was handed down in 2016.

And it’s far from over: The Supreme Court on Thursday returned the case to Florida 3rd Supreme Court of Appeals, with instructions to remand to the district court in Miami-Dade County.

Insurance representatives could not be reached for comment. But the most recent dispute in the courts is about the plaintiff’s lawyer looking for a way to increase his money. Timothy Crutchfield, with the plaintiffs’ firm Mintz Truppman, said he is not asking for much money, but that his second suit is necessary to protect the parties from disclosing information discussed in private negotiations.

Crutchfield

“It is very important that lawyers do not compromise the confidentiality of the mediator,” Crutchfield said. Otherwise, information about attorney’s fees could be removed from the public, disseminated and distorted, he said.

And with many Florida insurers moving to settle financial disputes through litigation and litigation, the issue could gain traction in the coming years.

“This has never been addressed by the appellate courts in this case,” Crutchfield said.

The case began in 2014, when a broken pipe caused severe water damage to Daphne Query’s Miami home. He hired Mintz Truppman and sued his insurance company, Lexington Insurance Co.

Lexington retained Cozen O’Connor, one of Florida’s largest insurance firms, and Cole, Scott & Kissane, another well-known security firm. The case was continued in federal court in southern Florida.

In 2016, after mediation, the parties agreed to settle the damages – $125,000, court records show. But they disagreed on the amount of the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees. Mintz’s attorneys argued that $828,000 was a fair amount, considering the accommodation and the 2.0-fold increase in fees, citing the alleged problems and other factors.

Cozen complained, saying the fees should be more like $75,000. After that, it was left to a federal judge to decide, who found $240,000. The judge did not include the multipliers. Query’s lawyers did not contest and did not appeal the decision. In 2017, Lexington paid attorney fees and claims of $125,000.

That was the end of the argument in the case but not the end of the case.

Before the settlement payment was finalized, Crutchfield filed a lawsuit against what he called a breach of confidentiality. They sued in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, alleging that Lexington and Cozen violated a 2004 Florida law by disclosing to federal court the amount of the homeowner’s original complaint, which was discussed separately.

Lexington’s attorneys said they offered the initial payment as a way to show that the insured had asked for more money earlier. He also said that the revelation was meaningless because it was part of a larger criminal case. And yet, the trial court upheld the motion and fines, barring the federal court from intervening in the matter.

Cozen’s attorneys asked the Miami-Dade District Court to dismiss Crutchfield’s case. The judge refused. Cozen asked a3rd The Supreme Court of Appeals stepped in and issued a rare restraining order, preventing a Miami judge from agreeing with Crutchfield on a motion to dismiss his privacy lawsuit.

The 3rd The DCA agreed with Cozen’s attorneys and reversed the lower court’s decision, finding that the trial court lacked jurisdiction.

Crutchfield said the DCA judges misunderstood the nature of his suit. He appealed to the high court in the state.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the DCA misunderstood the restraining order. The instrument can be used to stop the actions of the lower court, not to fix it.

“If we were to allow defendants to waive any case in which a trial judge would deny a motion to dismiss based on collateral, res judicata, or any other defense, that document could be used to defeat our appellate law in many cases. Especially third-party complaints,” Justice John Couriel said. wrote to the court. There is no justice against the idea.

The court resolved the issue of DCA decision and remanded the case to the Third Circuit with instructions to dismiss Lexington’s and Cozen’s claims for writ of prohibition and to rule on the previously announced motions for certiorari.

“This is good. It shows that the ban should be used sparingly,” Crutchfield said.

In the case of a private lawsuit, it may take another year or two before it is resolved.

“It should go back to court and be tried,” he said. “There are a lot of questions that need to be answered.”

Attorneys for Cozen and Cole, Scott, Kissane’s attorneys could not be reached for comment on the decision.

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