Appeals court backs denial of insurance company’s right to intervene in injury suit

By Asia Mayfield | Aug 16, 2018

LAKELAND – Florida's Second District Court of Appeal recently affirmed a Pinellas County Circuit Court ruling dismissing an insurer's attempt to intervene in an ongoing lawsuit against a roofing company involving a worker's injury.

Houston Specialty Insurance Company is tangled up in the ongoing case in which Enoch Vaughn is suing All Florida Weatherproofing & Construction Inc. after Vaughn sustained permanent injuries while working for All Florida.  Houston is the insurer for All Florida. 

In 2012, Vaughn was working for All Florida when he fell and suffered permanent injuries. Court filings note he is now paraplegic. After his accident, Vaughn filed a lawsuit on behalf of himself and his minor son. 

Houston originally agreed to investigate the matter but later unearthed “a policy exclusion eliminating coverage for bodily injury to All Florida's employees and an endorsement that would reduce the limits of any coverage if Mr. Vaughn was an independent contractor.” 

As the suit carried on, the parties continued to disagree. All Florida and Vaughn worked out a settlement deal but Houston opposed it. An arbitrator eventually awarded damages to Vaughn and his son, but Houston responded by filing a motion for a trial de novo. The motion was granted in February 2016. 

In response, Vaughn filed a motion to dismiss Houston’s intervention in the suit but it was rejected. However, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida considering the main arbitration case found that “Houston sought a declaration that there was no coverage because All Florida … failed to cooperate with Houston in defending the state court lawsuit. In September 2017, the district court entered summary judgment against Houston.” 

After the federal court ruling, Vaughn refiled his motion to dismiss Houston’s interference, which was granted by the circuit court. 

The state appeals court, in its Aug. 10 ruling, supported the decision to deny Houston’s intervention efforts and said, “If the possibility of owing up to the policy limits based upon entry of an adverse judgment was itself a sufficient basis to allow intervention, insurers would be permitted the unhindered and unfettered opportunity to intervene in innumerable tort cases. That is exactly what Houston wants.” 

The litigation is ongoing. 

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