DESPITE A VIGOROUS DISSENT, MAJORITY FINDS THE LANGUAGE OF AN INSURANCE POLICY CLEAR AND UNAMBIGUOUS
Walls v. Southern Owners Ins. Co., 46 Fla. L. Weekly D734 (Fla. 1st DCA March 31, 2021):
A corporation called “Partners for Pets” had a corporate insurance policy with Southern Owners that covered bodily injury and property damage. Southern Owners asserted a clause in their contract was an “escape” clause, which limited coverage to circumstances where Partners for Pets did not have any other insurance available affording the same or similar coverage.
There was also a GEICO policy that covered Partners for Pets, as a “person or organization” incurring liability when the acts or omissions of an insured covered the defendant.
The majority concluded that the phrase “similar coverage” referred to coverage that was “similar,” and therefore Southern Owners was not obligated under the $1,000,000 policy.
The dissenting judge, however, Judge Makar, wrote that what was “clear” about the language was that it was less than clear due to the divergent views of judges that have analyzed identical language (they are almost evenly split between whether such language is ambiguous or clear).
Thus, the majority rejected the plaintiff’s arguments that the policy was “not available” because it had exhausted its policy limits. The court said that whether there were still benefits available under the policy was not the question. Instead, the question was whether there was coverage available, which there wasn’t.