This Wednesday, on September 2, 2015, the Supreme Court of Florida will hear oral arguments in the case of Sebo v. American Home Assurance Company. Sebo may not currently be a household name, but the Supreme Court’s decision may skyrocket it into notoriety. The issue raised in Sebo is whether the Supreme Court should abolish the long-standing “concurrent cause doctrine.” A lower, intermediate appellate court rejected this well established doctrine in favor of a pro-insurer “efficient proximate cause doctrine” in first-party insurance cases involving multiple independent perils—one or more of which is covered, and one or more of which is not. This matter will have a substantial impact on insurance carriers and policyholders.
The concurrent cause doctrine is consistent with Florida’s public policy and time tested rules of construction and has also proven to be a workable, predictable, and entirely fair solution for determining coverage in the relatively rare situations where multiple independent perils combine to cause a loss. If the Supreme Court upholds the lower court’s decision, it would potentially result in homeowner’s insurance policyholders being deprived of the full coverage upon which their insurance premiums were based and paid, in contravention of well-established Florida law requiring that insurance policies be construed in favor of finding coverage wherever a reasonable interpretation allows it. Moreover, that result would engender unnecessary and costly litigation, which is prevalent in jurisdictions using the unpredictable and highly subjective efficient proximate cause standard.
Advocates for Florida’s policyholder’s will be closely following the oral argument which will be lived streamed from the Florida Supreme Court’s website starting at 9am.