Traub Lieberman Partner Burks Smith and Associate Alex Zesch Obtain Summary Judgment For Major Insurer In “Failed Repair” Sinkhole Lawsuit

Traub Lieberman Straus & Shrewsberry attorneys Burks Smith, Alex Zesch, and Ryan Burke recently obtained summary judgment in a “failed repair” sinkhole case pending before the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida in Tampa. The plaintiff had sued Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company for breach of contract, alleging that Liberty Mutual breached the insurance contract by failing to properly repair a confirmed sinkhole at the property.  In its summary judgment motion, Traub Lieberman argued, among other things, that the Plaintiff’s breach of contract claim must fail as a matter of law, as the property insurance policy at issue was an indemnity policy and no election to repair was invoked. The Court agreed, explaining that  Liberty Mutual met its obligations under the policy when it funded the 2011 repairs and that the policy “is an indemnity contract, not a repair contract.” The Court found that there was no record evidence supporting the plaintiff’s argument that Liberty Mutual elected to repair his property, thereby creating a new contract. The decision, Vehse v. Liberty Mut. Fire Ins. Co., No. 8:16-cv-599-T-33JSS, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28722 (M.D. Fla. Mar. 1, 2017), could provide important support for carriers battling suits for new damage that occurred long after repairs and even after their coverage ended.



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