Federal court agrees to reopen suit involving water-damaged restaurant

By John Sammon | May 22, 2018

MIAMI – The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida on May 18 granted a retrial in the case of an insurance carrier who refused to pay for roof damage to a restaurant saying the damage was outside its coverage.

The defendant, Scottsdale Insurance Co., issued an insurance policy to the plaintiff, Nabil Hach Al Luch, for a restaurant the plaintiff owned.

On April 15, 2016, water began pouring from the ceiling into the restaurant, damaging the building, audio equipment and an air conditioning unit and forcing the plaintiff to close the restaurant for the night.

The Luch submitted an insurance claim for the water intrusion but the company refused to pay the claim saying the loss was due to interior rainwater collection from deterioration of the building and cracks in the roof.

On March 8, 2017, Luch filed a complaint in state court alleging breach of contract.

Both party's filed motions for summary judgement (without trial), and in February 2018, the court denied both motions, finding there was an issue of fact whether rainwater limitations applied.

The case went to trial in March, and a jury found Scottsdale had failed to prove the property damage was excluded from the policy and awarded Luch damages of $58,011.51.

Scottsdale asked the court to remit its damage award to zero or to limit the amount to $25,000, the maximum allowed for business property coverage. The court declined the motion, but did determine that deficiencies in the verdict warranted a new trial.

The court said the jury finding against the defendant was unreasonable and unsupported by evidence. Also, both parties disagreed with the damage award amounts, which led the court to call the verdict “untenable.”

“A new trial is necessary to prevent injustice,” the court brief by U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga read.

A new trial will be scheduled for June or July and the case reopened without pre-trial motions.               

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