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According to Judge Makar's dissenting opinion in State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. Hawkinson, 41 Fla. L. Weekly D1865a (Fla. 1st DCA Aug. 11, 2016), a final judgment was entered requiring the insurer to provide uninsured motorist coverage under its policy for injuries sustained by plaintiff, who was determined to be a relative under the parents' policy. A separate trial on liability and damages against the driver was pending, with a possible recovery against State Farm under the policy. State Farm had appealed the final judgment, claiming it was appealable as a "partial final judgment" under Rule 9.110(k), Florida Rules of Appellate.

The dissenting opinion pointed to another case, Workman's Auto Ins. Co. v. Franz, 24 So. 3d 638 (Fla. 2d DCA 2009), which held that had a declaratory judgment action "been filed separately" to resolve the coverage issue, the appellate court would have had jurisdiction to consider the case with similar facts. The dissenting opinion indicated it made little sense to base jurisdiction on whether two lawsuits are filed versus one.

Justice Makar felt the better approach was to determine the extent of dependency between the coverage and damages case. Justice Makar opined the coverage and damages issues were independent matters, so much so that a separate bench trial was held first on the former and a discrete "final judgment" entered. No overlap existed between the issues and evidence, each focusing entirely on different issues. According to the dissenting opinion, the insurer's appeal should have been allowed to proceed.


 


This summary was prepared by Art Young of our firm.


Art Young

 

 

41 Fla. L. Weekly D1865a

 

Appeals -- Insurance -- Appeal from judgment finding entitlement to coverage dismissed for lack of jurisdiction in view of pendency of separate trial on liability and damages against driver, with possible recovery against insurer under policy

STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, Appellant, v. JENNIFER ANN HAWKINSON AND BRIAN REYNOLDS PETERS, Appellees. 1st District. Case No. 1D16-2075. Opinion filed August 11, 2016. An appeal from an order of the Circuit Court for Duval County. Tyrie W. Boyer, Judge. Counsel: Rhonda B. Boggess and Gina P. Grimsley, of Taylor, Day, Grimm & Boyd, Jacksonville, for Appellant. Benjamin E. Richard, William A. Bald and Raymond P. Reid, Jr., of Pajcic & Pajcic, P.A., Jacksonville, for Appellees.

(PER CURIAM.) Appellant's motion to determine jurisdiction is granted. The Court has determined that it lacks jurisdiction to review the order on appeal. See Workmen's Auto Ins. Co. v. Franz, 24 So. 3d 638, 640 (Fla. 2d DCA 2009) (concluding that order awarding summary judgment to insureds on issue of entitlement to uninsured motorist coverage was not a partial final judgment where related claim for uninsured motorist benefits remained pending). Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed. Appellee's motion to dismiss the appeal is denied as moot. (ROBERTS, C.J. and ROWE, J., CONCUR; MAKAR, J., DISSENTS WITH OPINION.)

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(MAKAR, J., dissenting.) After a separate bench trial, a final judgment was entered on the discrete claim in this case that the insurer was required to provide coverage under its policy for injuries occurring to the plaintiff, who was determined to be a "relative" under her parents' policy. Pending is a separate trial on liability and damages against the driver, and possible recovery against the insurer under the policy. The insurer appeals, claiming the final judgment is appealable as a "partial final judgment" under Rule 9.110(k), Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure. ("A partial final judgment, other than one that disposes of an entire case as to any party, is one that disposes of a separate and distinct cause of action that is not interdependent with other pleaded claims."). Because the discrete issue of coverage is separate and distinct from the remaining claim for damages, jurisdiction under subsection (k) exists. On somewhat similar facts, the Second District has found this issue to be a close question, holding that jurisdiction was lacking because of the procedural posture in that case; because the claims for insurance coverage and damages were included in the same count, the court viewed the coverage and damages issues as "sufficiently interrelated so that this order cannot be reviewed as a partial final judgment." Workmen's Auto Ins. Co. v. Franz, 24 So. 3d 638, 640 (Fla. 2d DCA 2009). But had a declaratory judgment action "been filed separately" to resolve the coverage issue, the court concluded that jurisdiction would exist. Id. ("We can only explain that the procedural posture of this case is different."). It makes little sense to base jurisdiction on whether two lawsuits are filed versus one; the better approach is to determine the extent of dependency between the coverage and damages claims. Here, the coverage and damages issues were deemed to be independent matters, so much so that a separate bench trial was held first on the former and a discrete "final judgment" entered; no overlap exists between the issues and evidence, each focusing on entirely different issues. Accordingly, the insurer's appeal should be allowed to proceed.





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