Florida insurers are now being forced to navigate between sometimes conflicting rulings on Examinations Under Oath (“EUO”) based on pre- and post-2012 changes to the PIP/No-Fault laws.
Insurance companies and their defense law firms were disappointed when the Florida Supreme Court ruled in late June that GEICO could not withhold benefits to a policyholder in a pre-2012 auto case based on the policyholder’s unwillingness to attend an EUO.
In the matter Merly Nunez v. GEICO General Insurance Company, the Florida Supreme Court was asked by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit to rule on, “[w]hether, under FLA. STAT. § 627.736, an insurer can require an insured to attend an [examination under oath] as a condition precedent to recovery of [personal injury protection] benefits?”
The Court’s answer was in the negative, in a split 5-2 vote. The majority ruled that, “[t]he Florida No-Fault statute is mandatory and does not recognize such a condition. It is therefore invalid and contrary to the statutory terms.”
“Swift and virtually automatic payment” is the primary intent of PIP laws, notes the majority. While GEICO argued the need for fraud prevention and claims investigations, the Court viewed these actions as contrary to a fast case resolution.
The majority opinion was written by Justice Perry, with Justices Pariente, Lewis, Quince, and Labarga concurring. Justice Canady wrote a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Polston concurred.
“Insurers have relied on the discretionary use of examinations under oath (EUOs) in appropriate cases to obtain relevant, needed information not only for the assessment of claimed losses, but for the prevention of fraud and abuse of the PIP system,” said Donovan Brown, Florida counsel and regional manager for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America as quoted in an Insurance Journal article. “This ruling is another blow to Florida’s consumers in the fight against PIP fraud because the ruling further exposes consumers to the rampant PIP fraud that has plagued the Florida auto insurance system for far too long.”
Florida Governor Rick Scott approved changes to the state’s PIP statutes in May, 2012. As of January 1, 2013, insureds must now comply with all terms of a No-Fault policy, including any requirement to submit to an Examination Under Oath.
Click on the link to read the Supreme Court of Florida ruling in Merly Nunez v. GEICO General Insurance Company, No. SC12-650, dated June 27, 2013.