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Court of Appeal of Florida, Third District
May 13, 2020, Opinion Filed
[*718] FERNANDEZ, J.
Security First Insurance Company appeals the trial court's order granting a directed verdict in favor of John Czelusniak, the insured. Upon review of the record, we reverse the directed verdict due to the anti-concurrent cause provision in Security First's water damage exclusion endorsement.
The underlying case concerns water that entered the insured's home causing mold growth and damage to the interior. It is undisputed that the insured's insurance policy with Security First is an all-risk policy. ] With an all-risk policy, the insured is only required to prove that damage occurred during the policy period. Jones v. Federated Nat. Ins. Co., 235 So. 3d 936, 941 (Fla. 4th DCA 2018). Subsequently, the burden shifts to the insurer to prove that one of the policy exclusions bars coverage. Id. If the insurer does not meet its burden, the insurer must cover the loss. Id. It is undisputed that: [**2] 1) even though damage may have occurred over a period of time, the property sustained damage in 2016 during the coverage period; 2) water came in through walls, windows, and doors resulting in damage to the interior; and 3) the policy explicitly excludes water that enters through walls and windows but does not explicitly exclude water entering in through the door. Taking all of this into consideration, the trial court granted the insured's motion for directed verdict on the basis of the concurrent cause doctrine, pursuant to Sebo v. American Home Assurance Co., Inc., 208 So. 3d 694 (Fla. 2016). The trial court reasoned that although water entering through the door is not expressly excluded, the jury would be unable to separate the water that came in through the door (non-excluded cause) from water that came in through the walls and windows (excluded causes). However, the policy includes an anti-concurrent cause provision within the exclusion endorsement. ] Because "in all-risk policies . . . construction is governed by the language of the exclusionary provisions," we find that the trial court erred in directing the verdict in favor of the insured in contravention of the anti-concurrent cause provision. Id. at 697.
] Generally, "when independent perils converge and [**3] no single cause can be considered the sole or proximate cause, it is appropriate to apply the concurring cause doctrine." Id. However, when the insurer explicitly avoids the application of the concurring-cause doctrine with an anti-concurrent cause provision1, the plain language of the policy precludes recovery. See Id. at 700; Jones v. Federated Nat. Ins. Co., 235 So. 3d 936, 941 (Fla. 4th DCA 2018) ("If the insurer fails to establish either a sole or efficient proximate cause, and there are no applicable anti-concurrent cause provisions, then the concurrent [*719] cause doctrine must be utilized."); Liberty Mut. Fire Ins. Co. v. Martinez, 157 So. 3d 486, 487 n.1 (Fla. 5th DCA 2015) ("[P]arties may contract around the concurrent cause doctrine with an anti-concurrent cause provision.").
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305 So. 3d 717 *; 2020 Fla. App. LEXIS 6494 **; 45 Fla. L. Weekly D 1151
Security First Insurance Company, Appellant, vs. John Czelusniak, Appellee.
Subsequent History: Review denied by, Motion granted by Czelusniak v. Sec. First Ins. Co., 2020 Fla. LEXIS 1903 (Fla., Nov. 16, 2020)
Prior History: [**1] An Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, David C. Miller, Judge.
insurer, anti-concurrent, windows, door, express exclusion, trial court, undisputed, walls, concurrent cause doctrine, directed verdict, exterior wall, water damage, endorsement, penetrating, all-risk, coverage, proximate cause, concurrently, contributing, indirectly, provisions, directing, excludes, interior, sequence, coming, perils, roof
Insurance Law, Property Insurance, Coverage, All Risks, Types of Insurance, Exclusions, Obligations, Covered Losses