The Florida Supreme Court recently answered a certified question and held that an estate has standing to sue under an employer liability policy for breach of contract. Morales v. Zenith Ins. Co., 2014 WL 6836320 (Fla. Dec. 4, 2014).
An employee was killed while working for his employer. The employee’s estate brought a wrongful death lawsuit against the decedent’s employer, alleging that the employer’s negligence caused the decedent’s death. The estate obtained a default judgment against the employer. After the employer’s liability insurer refused to pay the judgment, the estate sued the insurer, alleging that the insurer breached the policy. The trial court entered summary judgment in the insurer’s favor, finding that the policy’s workers’ compensation exclusion barred the estate’s suit. The estate appealed to the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which concluded that it was unclear under Florida law whether the estate had standing to sue the employer’s insurer and certified the question to the Florida Supreme Court.
The Florida Supreme Court answered the certified question in the affirmative, finding that the estate did have standing to sue for breach of contract under the employer’s liability policy. It found that under Florida law, a judgment creditor has standing to bring suit against a liability insurer that may have coverage for the judgment. Because the estate had obtained a judgment against the decedent’s employer, it had standing to bring a direct action against the employer’s insurer to recover that judgment.