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Tag Archives: Pre-suit

Chapter 558, Commencing an Action, and the Statute of Repose

Prior to the Fourth District Court of Appeal’s recent decision in Robert Gindel, et al. v. Centex Homes, et al., 43 Fla. L. Weekly D2112d (Fla. 4th DCA Sept. 12, 2018), Florida courts had not directly addressed the issue of whether the mandatory pre-suit notice for construction defects under Chapter 558 qualifies as an “action,” pursuant to the statute of repose in Chapter 95.

Gindel v. Centex is a construction defect case for damages arising from the alleged improper construction of townhomes. On March 31, 2004, the Homeowners closed on and took possession of the townhomes constructed by Centex and its subcontractors. On that date, the statute of repose, section 95.11(3)(c), Florida Statutes (2014), began to run as to any construction defect, the expiration of which was ten years later. After discovering the alleged defect, on February 6, 2014, the Homeowners provided the Chapter 558 requisite pre-suit notice of defect to Centex. At the conclusion of the mandatory pre-suit procedure, Centex declined to cure the alleged defect. The Homeowners filed suit on May 2, 2014.

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The Importance of Contractual Protections Requiring Notice and Opportunity to Cure

We have previously discussed the intent of Chapter 558, Florida Statutes, which is to provide parties with opportunities to avoid the commencement of litigation by providing a mechanism for them to enter into discussions through pre-suit notices of claim. Among other things, Chapter 558 requires the notice of claim to “identify the location of each alleged construction defect sufficiently to enable the responding parties to locate the alleged defect without undue burden.” However, contractors can further protect themselves from the commencement of litigation without inadequate notice by requiring notice of alleged defects, as well as the opportunity to cure those defects, as a matter of contract.

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Eleventh Circuit Considers Whether the Chapter 558 Process Is a “Suit”

Recently, in Altman Contractors, Inc. v. Crum & Forster Specialty Ins. Co., the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit addressed an issue of first impression.[1] In Altman, the Eleventh Circuit evaluated whether an insurer has a duty to defend and indemnify an insured who receives a Notice of Claim pursuant to Chapter 558, Florida Statutes (“Notice of Claim”). The Southern District of Florida previously ruled that a Notice of Claim did not constitute a suit, and thus, does not trigger a duty to defend and indemnify. The insured then appealed that ruling to the Eleventh Circuit, which ruled that the terms “suit” and “civil proceeding,” as found in the subject Commercial General Liability (CGL) insurance policies, may be ambiguous as used in the policies.[2] Due to important public policy considerations, the Eleventh Circuit certified the following question to the Florida Supreme Court: “Is the notice and repair process set forth in Chapter 558 of the Florida Statutes a ‘suit’ within the meaning of the GCL policies issued by C&F to ACI?”[3]

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Amendments to Chapter 558 Become Effective on October 1, 2015

On June 16, 2015, Governor Rick Scott signed into law House Bill 87, which amends Chapter 558 of the Florida Statutes.  The amendment takes effect October 1, 2015. The intent of Chapter 558 is to avoid the commencement of an action by providing a mechanism for the parties to enter into discussions with one another Read More…

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Chapter 558: What Suits You May Not Suit Your Insurer – Florida Federal Court Determines that a Chapter 558 Notice of Claim Does Not Require Defense or Indemnity

The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida recently issued an opinion in Altman Contractors, Inc. v. Crum & Forster Specialty Ins. Co., No. 13-80831-CIV, 2015 WL 3539755 (S.D. Fla. June 4, 2015), addressing an issue of first impression.  In Altman, the Court evaluated whether an insurer has a duty to defend Read More…

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CSK’s Legislative Update – House Bill 87/Senate Bill 418

Florida’s 2015 Legislative session kicks off on Tuesday March 3, 2015. This Legislative session CSK’s Construction Law Division is closely tracking the following bills: • House Bill (“HB”) 87 titled Construction Defect Claims and a similar bill, Senate Bill (“SB”) 418; and • HB 501 titled Limitations of Actions. These bills, if passed, will impact Read More…

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Keeping Claims Files Confidential: “Work-Product” Privilege for Construction Claims Handling

The vast majority of construction disputes do not begin with the filing of formal litigation.  In fact, Florida Statute § 558.004 protects against any “first-notice” lawsuits by requiring that notice and an opportunity to cure any alleged defect be given prior to the pursuit of formal litigation.  Of course, as part of any pre-suit investigation, Read More…

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