Court Defines Structural Damage

Hillsborough County Circuit Court Judge Sam Pendino recently denied a motion brought by USAA Casualty Insurance Company in the case of Jackson v. USAA Casualty Insurance Company.

USAA requested an application of a technical definition of structural damage in a sinkhole case. In his ruling Judge Pendino found that, notwithstanding recent amendments to Fla. Stat. 627.706, which were effective as of May 17, 2011, the phrase "structural damage" as it relates to the subject insurance policy was undefined, and that the Florida Legislature did not intend for the technical definition to apply. In the Jackson case, the policy in question was in effect as of September 17, 2008 during the applicable laws set forth in Fla. Stat. 627.706 (2008).

USAA followed a growing trend in the insurance industry where they attempt to retroactively apply the recent amendments to the Florida Statute although the insurance policies themselves predate the amendment. If allowed, the policy holder faces a litany of hurdles, including the revision of the definition of structural damage, in order to receive any payment on their insurance claim.

In the Jackson ruling, Judge Pendino denied the insurance company's retroactive attempt and held that the phrase "structural damage" shall mean damage to the structure in question, which in the case at hand was the Plaintiff's house. This ruling mirrors the legal definition as applied in the 2008 statute.