Equal Access to Justice Act Fee Request Rejected in Flood Case

Bills coming out of wallet

The insurer did not compensate plaintiff for flood-related damages under the terms of a SFIP.

January 6, 2020
Tred R. Eyerly - Insurance Law Hawaii

The insured's claim for fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) for seeking coverage under a flood policy was rejected. Hampson v. Wright Nat'l Flood Ins. Co., No. 4:19-cv-10083-KMM (S.D. Fla. Aug. 11, 2019)(Order on Motion to Dismiss). The order is here.

The insurer did not compensate plaintiff for flood-related damages under the terms of a Standard Flood Insurance Policy (SFIP). The insurer was a Write-Your-Own (WYO) Program insurance carrier participating in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). By statute, a WYO carrier acts as a "fiscal agent" and "fiduciary" of the United States.

The insured's property suffered damage from a hurricane. The insured sued the carrier for breach of contract and attorney's fees under EAJA. The insurer moved to dismiss the claim for fees under EAJA. A party could recover fees and costs under the EAJA as the prevailing party in a case "brought by or against the United States . . . unless the court finds the position of the United States was substantially justified." 28 U.S.C. 2412 (d) (1) (A), (b). The statute defined the "United States" to include "any agency and any official of the United States acting in his or her official capacity." However, attorney's fees were not recoverable under the EAJA in cases for breach of an SFIP brought against a WYO program insurance carrier participating in the NFIP because WYO carriers were not considered "agencies" under the EAJA.

Mr. Eyerly may be contacted at te@hawaiilawyer.com



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