Citizens issued a homeowner's insurance policy to the plaintiff. On October 24, 2005, Hurricane Wilma allegedly caused damage to the plaintiff's home. Although the plaintiff admitted to seeing some water leaking into his house during the hurricane, it was not until almost four years later, on June 12, 2009, that the plaintiff informed Citizens of the alleged damage to his home.
After receiving notice of the alleged damage to the plaintiff's home, Citizens contacted plaintiffs, and as allowed by the policy, requested he send them a "sworn proof of loss," containing certain information regarding the home and the alleged damage. Although the plaintiff later submitted some of the requested information to Citizens, he did not do so in a timely manner.
The plaintiff filed suit after Citizens denied his claim. After its initial motion for summary was denied, Citizens served the plaintiff with a proposal for settlement in the amount of $1000. The plaintiff rejected the proposal for settlement. Citizens then filed a second motion for summary judgment. The second motion for summary judgment was granted, and final summary judgment was entered in favor of Citizens because the notice of the claim was not promptly provided.
After its second motion for summary judgment was granted, Citizens filed a motion to determine its entitlement to attorney's fees pursuant to Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.442 and section 768.79, Florida Statutes (2013). The trial court determined that the settlement proposal offered by Citizens was not made in good faith, and thus denied Citizens' entitlement to recover attorney's fees. Citizens appeals this denial.
The Fourth District has consistently held that: The rule is that a minimal offer can be made in good faith if the evidence demonstrates that, the offeror had a reasonable basis to conclude that its exposure was nominal. In the instant case, there is enough evidence in the record to conclude that Citizens faced only nominal exposure, as the plaintiff did not first report the alleged damage to his home for nearly four years after the fact. Therefore, the Fourth District reversed the trial court's order denying Citizens' recovery of attorney's fees and remanded with instructions that the trial court enter an order granting attorney's fees to Citizens and determining the amount to be awarded.
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