Premises Liability Claim Leads to Insurance Dispute, Shifting Jurisdiction Between Florida State and Federal Courts
A state court in Miami-Dade County, Florida will decide a woman’s dispute over insurance coverage for a premises liability claim, after the case had moved around between state and federal courts. The defendant in Taylor v. Admiral Insurance Company, et al removed the case to federal court based on diversity jurisdiction. New evidence implicated another company, but joinder of the company destroyed diversity. The court had to decide whether to permit the joinder of the company as a defendant or remand the case to state court.
The plaintiff, Kerry Taylor, attended a private function at Villa Vizcaya, a property owned by Miami-Dade County, on April 4, 2006. She allegedly fell from a broken step and sustained injuries that required ongoing treatment, including multiple surgeries. Taylor sued the county, Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, and Villa Vizcaya to recover damages for her injuries, alleging in part that they failed to warn of a dangerous condition on the property. The county requested defense and indemnification from Admiral Insurance Company.
Months earlier, the company planning the April 4, 2006 private event obtained a general liability insurance policy from a company called Brown & Brown. The policy, which purported to cover claims arising from the April 4, 2006 event, had Admiral as its general liability insurer, and named Villa Vizcaya as an additional insured. After Taylor filed her lawsuit, Admiral denied coverage of the claim, alleging that none of the parties to the lawsuit were named as insured parties under the policy.
Miami-Dade County and the other defendants in Taylor’s initial lawsuit settled with Taylor by paying her $25,000 and agreeing to a judgment of $550,000. They assigned all of their rights under the insurance policy to Taylor, and Taylor sued Admiral in Miami-Dade Circuit Court. Admiral removed the case to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida based on diversity jurisdiction. The federal court had jurisdiction because Taylor is a citizen of Florida, Admiral is a Delaware company based in New Jersey, and the amount in controversy far exceeded $75,000.
After removal to federal court, Taylor sought leave to amend her petition to add Brown & Brown as a defendant. She alleged that Admiral had recently claimed, for the first time, that Brown & Brown never had authority to issue a policy binding Admiral, because it was not an authorized broker for the company at the time. Taylor sought to add a claim against Brown & Brown for issuing an allegedly fraudulent insurance certificate. Joining Brown & Brown, a Florida-based company, to the suit would destroy diversity between the parties, so both Admiral and Brown & Brown moved to deny joinder or dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
Diversity jurisdiction requires that all plaintiffs be citizens of different states from all defendants. Any overlapping citizenship destroys diversity. Federal law requires that a court either deny joinder of a diversity-destroying party or remand the case to state court. The court in this case found that Brown & Brown was a legitimate party to the dispute, so it did not have grounds to deny joinder. It therefore held that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction and remanded the case.
The premises liability attorneys at Cohn & Smith help recover compensation for people in South Florida who have suffered injuries due to hazardous conditions on someone’s property. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with one of our lawyers, contact us today, either online, or by calling (954) 431-8100, or (305) 624-9186.
More Blog Posts:
Insurance Dispute Arises in Civil Claim for Compensation in Trayvon Martin Case, South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, August 16, 2012
Slip and Fall at the Food Court, South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, June 4, 2012
Pool safety and premises liability, South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, May 30, 2012