In Altman Contractors, Inc. v. Crum & Forster Specialty Insurance Company, No. SC16-1420, 2017 WL 6379535 (Fla. Dec. 14, 2017), the Florida Supreme Court addressed whether the notice and repair process set forth in chapter 558, Florida Statutes, constitutes a “suit” within the meaning of a commercial liability policy issued by Crum & Forster Specialty Insurance Company (“C&F”) to Altman Contractors, Inc. (“Altman”). The Court found that because the chapter 558 pre-suit process is an “alternative dispute resolution proceeding” as included in the definition of “suit” in the policy by C&F to Altman, C&F had a duty to defend Altman during the chapter 558 process, prior to the filing of a formal lawsuit.
Chapter 558, titled “Construction Defects,” sets forth procedural requirements before a claimant may file a construction defect action. It requires a claimant to serve a written notice of claim on the applicable contractor, subcontractor, supplier, and/or design professional prior to filing a construction defect lawsuit. The legislature intended for Chapter 558 to be an alternative dispute resolution mechanism in certain construction defect matters allowing an opportunity to resolve the claim without further legal process.