Tenants Who Negligently Cause Fires in Florida Beware: You May Be Liable to the Landlord’s Insurer

Flames on black background

Prior to filing suit, subrogation practitioners should be aware of the jurisdiction’s approach to the Sutton doctrine.

May 13, 2019
Rahul Gogineni - The Subrogation Strategist

In Zurich Am. Ins. Co. v. Puccini, LLC, 2019 Fla. App. LEXIS 1487, 44 Fla. L. Weekly D 383, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals considered whether a landlord’s carrier, Zurich American Insurance Company (Zurich), was precluded from pursuing a subrogation claim against the landlord’s tenant, Puccini, LLC (Puccini), for fire-related damages. After the fire, Zurich paid its insured, Lincoln-Drexel Waserstein, Ltd. (Lincoln), over $2.1 million. Zurich then proceeded with an action against Puccini. Puccini filed for summary judgment arguing that it was an additional insured under the Zurich policy. The trial court agreed with Puccini and dismissed the action. Zurich then appealed the case to Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals. Finding that the lease contemplated both liability on the part of the tenant and indemnification in favor of the landlord, the court held that the tenant was not an implied co-insured under Zurich’s policy. Thus, the court allowed Zurich’s subrogation action.

The Sutton Doctrine Extension of the Anti-Subrogation Rule

In the United States, most states have adopted an anti-subrogation rule either by statute or through common law. Under an anti-subrogation rule, an insurer may not pursue its insured for monies paid to the insured. While some states limit their anti-subrogation rule to apply only to the named insured, other states have expanded the rule to include parties listed as additional insureds, and even, in some instances, implied insureds (those parties not specifically listed, but still considered an insured under the applicable policy).

Mr. Gogineni may be contacted at goginenir@whiteandwilliams.com



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