So, you feel your insurance company is treating you unfairly and acting in bad faith? The first step to perfect your claim for bad faith will be to file a Civil Remedy Notice (“CRN”) with Florida's Department of Financial Services (“DFS”). On the required CRN form, they will they will ask you what provisions of the policy and Florida laws did your insurance company violate? If your answer is “pretty much all of them,” Florida courts will frown. “We're going to need you to be more specific,” they will reply. A recent opinion out of the Florida Fifth District Court of Appeal—Demase v. State Farm—proves, yet again, when filing the required CRN to accuse your insurance company of acting in bad faith, less is more.
The Demases' Failure to Fulfill the Specificity Requirements
We have discussed the requirements for filing a CRN, which preserves a claim for bad faith, at length here. There is only one form that can be used to file a proper CRN; it is available on the DFS website here. On the form, you are required to state which provisions of the policy your insurance company violated. In Demase v. State Farm Florida Ins. Co., 2022 WL 16909408 (Fla. 5th DCA 2022), the Demases answered this question with essentially “ALL POLICY PROVISIONS.” Of the 70+ available statutes and regulations available to choose from, the Demases claimed State Farm violated 37, an abnormally high number for a CRN. In rejecting the Demases' CRN as deficient, the Fifth DCA explained the Demases' sweeping, over-inclusive answers did not fulfill their obligation to “state with specificity” the statutes State Farm violated and identify the “specific policy language that is relevant to the violation.”
You can read the full Demase v. State Farm opinion here.
Whether Strict vs. Substantial Compliance Is Required
There was a question, however, the court refused to answer in the Demase majority opinion. That is, whether a complainant can fulfill the specificity requirements for filing a CRN with merely “substantial compliance” as opposed to “strict compliance.” While the majority opinion skirted this question by explaining the Demases' CRN failed both standards, Justice Sasso wrote a concurring opinion explaining his opinion that “substantial compliance” cannot be sufficient because the statute governing CRN filing requirements must be strictly construed and states the specific information “shall” be provided. Demase, 2022 16909408, *3-4. As a result, Justice Sasso concluded that a CRN—like the Demases'—“which simply regurgitates every statutory and policy provision fails to meet this requirement.” Id. at *4. Although this was only a concurring opinion—and therefore not controlling over the majority opinion—it is persuasive authority that other courts will look to when determining whether the fulfillment of CRN specificity requirements requires the more stringent “strict compliance” as opposed to only “substantial compliance.”
The takeaway? Be specific!
When filing a CRN against your insurance company identify only those statutes—most often it is only a handful—that your insurance company actually violated and the specific policy provisions—typically four or five—relevant to the violations. If you're not sure how specific is specific enough? Let us help. As experienced insurance attorneys who have helped hundreds of Florida homeowners hold their insurance company accountable when they acted in bad faith, we have prepared and filed hundreds of CRNs for our clients and we know how to meet the specificity requirements and ensure your bad faith claim is preserved.
Unfortunately, without help like our firm provides, the Demases's CRN was rendered deficient. As a result, the court entered judgment in favor of State Farm on their claim for bad faith. Don't let this happen to you. If you feel your insurance company has treated you unfairly and acted in bad faith, contact us for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. Our attorneys handle all cases personally and we do not take a case unless we are prepared and committed to take it all the way to trial on the breach of contract claim as well as the claim for bad faith.