The Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure allow for an immediate, final appeal of a judgment that determines the existence or nonexistence of insurance coverage. However, the rule limits it to those “in which a claim has been made against an insured and coverage thereof is disputed by the insurer.” Recently, the Third District dismissed an appeal which sought to extend this rule.
In GEICO Gen. Ins. Co. v. Perez, Case No. 3D16-1601, 2016 Fla. App. LEXIS 12425 (Fla. 3d DCA Aug. 17, 2016), the plaintiff filed a six-count complaint. One of those counts was a declaratory judgment action seeking to establish that the insurance policy provided stacked UM coverage. The trial court issued a Final Declaratory Judgment finding that the policy provided stacked UM. However, the remainder of the counts, including those seeking those UM benefits, were not adjudicated.
GEICO appealed the Final Declaratory Judgment to the Third District Court of Appeal. However, Perez moved to dismiss the appeal as premature. The Third District found that the remaining counts of the complaint, which sought UM benefits, were all intertwined with and were not independent of the adjudicated count. The Court explained, even though the order was titled “final,” the order was non-final and non-appealable because there were still related claims pending between the parties. The Court further explained that Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.110(m) is limited to Third Party claims. As a result, the Court dismissed the appeal.
Since the rule only applies to Third Party insurance coverage issues, these types of rulings in a First Party case must be appealed at the end of the litigation. The coverage ruling can then be addressed along with the other matters, including the jury’s award of damages. The Rules Committee noted that in Third Party cases a quick and efficient resolution of the matter is in the best interest of all the parties.
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Kansas R. Gooden
Board Certified Appellate Attorney
Appellate Practice Group Leader