In a recent Court decision from 2013, the First District Court of Appeals held that an insurance carrier did not have to prove that an insured’s false statement was intentional to be allowed to cancel the policy. The case involved the insured filing a claim with his insurance agency after a fire. The insurance company found out during the course of their investigation that one of the individuals named in the insurance policy lied on their insurance application when asked about prior convictions for a felony in the past 10 years. The person, in fact, had five felony convictions on their record in the last 10 years.
Appellate Court Decision
During her testimony at trial, the insured claimed that the false response to the inquiry on the insurance application was not intentional. While the insured won at the trial court level, the insurance company appealed and won a judgment in their favor from the First District Court of Appeals. The insurance company pointed to a relevant part of the insured’s policy that allowed for the policy to be void if an insured makes false statements. In this case, the insured argues that the insurance company had to show that the false statements were made intentionally with the purpose of deceiving the company in order for the claim to be successful and the policy voided. The District Court did not agree.
The Court, on appeal, stated that the false statement does not have to be made knowingly, but the effect of the statement only needs to affect the insurance company’s risk, or be a fact which would have caused the company to not issue the policy or issue it under different terms had they known about it previously.
Be Careful with Insurance Applications
Essentially, this case represents the fact that intent need not be proven as an essential element of false statements and thus makes the burden less strict for showing intentional misrepresentation. Rather, all that is required is for the statement to be made under circumstances in which the declarant should have known of the statement’s falsity. In this case, the insured undoubtedly knew about the multiple prior convictions she had within the prior 10 years. In applying the Court’s rationale to these facts, it can be said that she answered the question on the application, when she should have known her answer was false. Therefore, the Court found that the false statement argument was proven and found in favor of the insurance company, who was allowed to void the policy within the terms explained above.
This case represents an important nuance of case law. Oftentimes, legislation and statutes set the parameters of a law, and then individual cases, such as this one, are tried before the court to further define, clarify, and explain its terms. Since cases are constantly challenged in court, rulings affecting another case’s outcome can present itself at any time.
An experienced Florida attorney keeps informed on the most relevant and recent decisions involving authoritative case law. The attorneys at Hoffman, Larin, & Agnetti, P.A. are prepared to discuss the facts of your particular case and advise you of your rights. Contact us today for a consultation.