Late Notice Bars Insured’s Claim for Loss Caused by Hurricane

    The court found that the failure to provide prompt notice of damage caused by Hurricane Irma barred plaintiff’s claim for coverage. Garcia v. Scottsdale Ins. Co., 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 149312 (S.D. Fla. Aug. 18, 2022).

    On September 10, 2017, plaintiff’s property allegedly suffered damage due to Hurricane Irma. Shortly thereafter, plaintiff observed a water stain on the ceiling of the bedroom which was painted over. She did not take any pictures of the water stain before repainting. Plaintiff reported to her experts that she observed other water stains in various areas in 2017, 2018 and 2019, and that she painted over them each time. She again observed water stains in several rooms in 2020, at which time she became aware of the magnitude of the problem and went to an attorney. Plaintiff did not report her claim until May 27, 2020. 

    Scottsdale inspected the property twice before denying coverage because no damage from a covered cause of loss was observed during the inspections. Scottsdale also reserved rights based on plaintiff’s failure to give prompt notice of the loss as required by the policy. Both plaintiff’s experts and Scottsdale’s experts found evidence of repairs to the roof before and after Hurricane Irma based on aerial satellite photographs of the property. Scottsdale received no documentation regarding the condition of the property immediately after Hurricane Irma and no documentation of wind damage to the property after the alleged date of loss, but before any repairs. 

    Plaintiff filed suit and Scottsdale moved for summary judgment. The observation of roof repairs following Hurricane Irma indicated plaintiff was aware of damage for years before she reported the claim. Therefore, the notice was not prompt as a matter of law. 

    There was a presumption that Scottsdale suffered prejudice. Plaintiff was unable to rebut the presumption. Therefore, Scottsdale was entitled to summary judgment.