Raindrops keep falling on my head
Yesenia Valentin owned property in Florida that was insured under a homeowners policy with People’s Trust Insurance Company. The policy included a preferred contractor endorsement. In July 2017, Valentin’s house sustained water damage from an apparent roof leak.
According to the allegations of People’s Trust’s complaint, the insurer repeatedly requested several documents from Valentin prior to the filing of the underlying suit, including a sworn proof of loss. People’s Trust asserted that nearly a year after the loss, Valentin submitted a sworn proof of loss, but People’s Trust argued that it had not been properly filled out. People’s Trust also alleged that it invoked the policy’s appraisal provisions, but Valentin did not cooperate in that process. Valentin did, however, execute a work authorization, which authorized People’s Trust’s contractor to perform the covered repairs on the property.
In late June 2018, upon Valentin’s failure to comply with its requests to complete a sworn proof of loss or appoint an appraiser, People’s Trust filed suit. The complaint consisted of three counts: mandatory injunction/specific performance, declaratory judgment, and breach of contract/rescission.
Despite the fact that Valentin had authorized People’s Trust to perform repairs on the property, People’s Trust believed that her failure to comply with her post-loss obligations may have relieved it of its obligation to do so. As such, People’s Trust sought a declaration of its rights to determine whether it was entitled to rescind the contract or was required to perform the covered repairs. Valentin filed a motion to dis-miss the action, arguing the court should dismiss the case for lack of a justiciable case or controversy.
The trial court granted Valentin’s motion in its entirety and planned to permit People’s Trust to amend its complaint. People’s Trust advised the court that there was nothing more it could do to fix the already extensively pleaded complaint and requested that dismissal be with prejudice. People’s Trust appealed.
On appeal, the court held that People’s Trust’s claim for breach of contract was properly dismissed because the complaint failed to state a cause of action for breach of contract. Thus the issue was not properly preserved for appeal.
Regarding the claim for specific performance, People’s Trust’s complaint alleged that there was a contract between the parties, the terms of which were clear and definite. Given that the factual allegations in the complaint supported the elements of a claim for specific performance, the court held that People’s Trust was entitled to maintain this action.
According to the court, the count for declaratory relief also was sufficiently pleaded to withstand dismissal. People’s Trust pleaded that it sought a declaration of its coverage obligations and whether it was entitled to void Valentin’s policy. Based on the allegations in the complaint, the dispute between the parties was a proper subject for declaratory judgment at this stage of the proceedings.
The court affirmed the trial court’s decision in part, reversed it in part, and remanded the case for further proceedings.
People’s Trust Insurance Company v. Valentin—District Court of Appeal of Florida, Third District—April 1, 2020—No. 3D19-58.