In 1997, one Eugenie Poleyeff went for a swim at Miami Beach but a riptide got her into difficulties. To help, Zachary Breaux ran out to her, but both were drowned. Their two families sued Miami, claiming that the city had made the beach look protected by erecting showers and restrooms, building a parking lot, and allowing a concessionaire to do business there. But the city had not put up any signs warning of riptides, and there were no lifeguards.
A settlement was negotiated between the city and two families, but the insurance company refused to pay any damages. The insurance policy was actually written for a beach concessionaire, with the city listed as an additional insured. Monticello’s argument for not paying damages was that the policy did not provide coverage for Miami.
That started ten years of legal warring. The lower courts rejected the lawsuits by ruling that Miami should not be held liable for beach conditions.
A Landmark Ruling Along the Way
In 2005 there was a landmark ruling where the Florida Supreme Court ruled that cities have a responsibility to warn the public of any dangerous beach conditions that are known or should be known. In 2007, the city chose to settle the case, which put them on the same side as the original plaintiffs, both fighting the insurance company, Monticello Insurance Co.
Now the matter has been settled with Monticello being ordered to pay $5.7 to the two families and $200,000 to Miami to reimburse it for its settlement obligation. Monticelli also must pay interest on these damages over the ten-year period and attorney fees.
The judge, U.S. District Judge Alan Gold, criticized Monticello for originally denying coverage to Miami Beach. The attorney who represented one of the families stated:
- “To drag this out for the length of time that they did — it’s a sad state … .Monticello brought this on themselves.”
However, he is expecting Monticello to appeal.
If you are wondering whether your insurance company has dealt with you fairly and according to the terms of your policy, please contact our law firm today. Insurance bad faith can take many forms and you may have a valid legal claim. We will be happy to schedule a free case review for you.