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Appeals court reverses Hillsborough County judgment, awarding fees in sinkhole litigation against FIGA

State Court

By Marian Johns | Oct 21, 2019


LAKELAND — Florida's Second District Court of Appeal has ruled that a trial court misinterpreted case precedent when it denied a woman attorney fees and costs in her litigation with Florida Insurance Guaranty Association over a sinkhole claim.

According to the Oct. 11 court ruling, Phylis Heid appealed a Hillsborough County Circuit Court order that denied her attorney fees and costs in her case against Florida Insurance Guaranty Association (FIGA). 

"In this appeal Heid argues that the trial court misconstrued this court's prior holding in Miller v. Florida Insurance Guaranty Ass'n, 200 So. 3d 200 (Fla. 2d DCA 2016), which she claims supports her entitlement to fees," judge Robert Morris wrote in the appeal court's opinion.  "She also claims that she is entitled to costs pursuant to section 57.041, Florida Statutes (2012), because FIGA's ultimate concession that her claim is covered constitutes a confession of judgment. We agree with both of her arguments and reverse the decision of the trial court."

The case stems from sinkhole damage to Heid's home in 2010. After nearly three years of claim denials, sinkhole testing and her original insurance company being bought out by FIGA, the company eventually conceded and paid the claim except for Heid's litigation costs. A trial court ruled that Heid's requested fees were not covered under her claim. 

"The trial court misconstrued our holding in Miller as barring Heid from recovering attorney's fees in this case," Morris wrote. "Based on the clear language in Miller, Heid is entitled to attorney fees that are related to the enforcement of the policy itself.  Accordingly, we reverse the trial court's order denying attorney's fees and costs and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."

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