Florida Supreme Court Rules Against Insurer in Equitable Subrogation Case

7/14/17

Angela Rodante

On July 13, 2017, the Florida Supreme Court reviewed Allstate Insurance Co. v. Theodotou, 171 So. 3d 163 (Fla. 5th DCA 2015) from the Fifth District Court of Appeals. In its decision, the Fifth District ruled on the following question, and then certified it to be of great public importance:

IS A PARTY THAT HAS HAD JUDGMENT ENTERED AGAINST IT ENTITLED TO SEEK EQUITABLE SUBROGATION FROM A SUBSEQUENT TORTFEASOR WHEN THE JUDGMENT HAS NOT BEEN FULLY SATISFIED? 

In this case, a seriously injured plaintiff, Benjamin Hintz, obtained over an $11 million judgment against the initial tortfeasor, Emily Boozer. However, the only portion of the judgment that has been paid came from the initial tortfeasor’s insurer, Allstate, which paid its policy limit of $1.1 million, leaving an unsatisfied judgment of over $10 million. The vast majority of the damages were economic, with the jury allocating $9 million to future care and treatment. 

The Court concluded that the Fifth District erred in holding that Respondents could assert claims for contingent equitable subrogation without first paying the judgment in full. The certified question was answered in the negative, reversing the Fifth District’s decision, and remanding the case to reinstate the dismissal of the equitable subrogation claims. 

“The Supreme Court correctly recognized that liability insurers and the people they insure cannot leave a person uncompensated after negligently injuring them, then expect to get paid back,” said Ms. Rodante told Law 360. “Deadbeat debtors don’t get to use ‘equitable’ subrogation.” 

Swope, Rodante P.A. Partners, Angela Rodante and Dale Swope, teamed up with Hendrik Uiterwyk, John Hamilton, and Barbara Green to represent Douglas Stalley, guardian of the property of Hintz.

ABOUT SWOPE, RODANTE P.A.

Swope, Rodante P.A. is a civil trial practice firm with offices in Tampa, Florida and Decatur, Georgia. Practice areas include catastrophic personal injuries or wrongful death, insurance coverage disputes, and both first-party and third-party insurance bad faith actions. The firm’s team of experienced and knowledgeable attorneys and staff work with an unyielding commitment to protecting the rights of the injured and those who have been wronged by insurance companies. The firm has held a deep commitment to playing an active role in improving the community by donating tens of thousands of dollars every year to Hillsborough public high schools, awarding higher education scholarships and community service grants.an

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