Res Judicata Bars Insured’s Re-litigation of AOB Suit
In Charles v. Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, 41 Fla. L. Weekly D2033b (Fla. 3d DCA Aug. 31, 2016), the Third District Court of Appeal barred Plaintiff’s lawsuit based on the doctrine of res judicata.
Res judicata is an affirmative defense that prevents a party from pursuing a cause of action that has already been litigated or that could have previously been raised. The four elements required for this defense are identity of the thing sued for, identity of the cause of action, identity of the persons and parties to the action, and identity of the quality or capacity of the person for or against whom the claim is made.
In Charles, the plaintiff initially sued Citizens Property Insurance alleging breach of contract for the failure to pay a supplemental request for damages arising from a plumbing leak. Citizens asserted a defense of lack of standing based on Charles’s assignment of her insurance benefits to a remediation company. At the summary judgment hearing, Charles asserted that she and the assignee had executed an amended assignment after their initial assignment. However, the trial court did not accept the purported amended assignment due to Charles’s failure to reply to Citizens’s standing defense. The Court granted Charles leave to amend her response to Citizens’s standing defense but she did not do so.
Instead of amending her pleading or appealing the trial court’s decision, Charles filed a second lawsuit alleging breach of contract for Citizens’s failure to pay the loss arising from the plumbing leak and alleging the same damages as in the initial lawsuit. The appellate court concluded that all four elements for res judicata had been met. Further, the issue of plaintiff’s standing had already been decided in the first suit as Charles did not amend her pleadings in that matter despite having been given the opportunity to do so. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court’s finding that the second lawsuit was barred by res judicata.