Cross-motions for summary judgment were denied in Nova Casualty’s federal legal malpractice action against Robert Santa Lucia, which involved the question of whether reinsurance falls within the collateral source rule. Mr. Santa Lucia had been hired to defend Nova’s insured in a personal injury suit brought in Florida state court. In the underlying action, the state court set aside a “high-low” agreement, which led to a million dollar settlement. Thereafter, Nova alleged that Mr. Santa Lucia negligently advised Nova in the negotiation and form of the high-low agreement and ultimate settlement. During the relevant times, Nova had two reinsurance contracts with GMAC Re providing reinsurance immunity. After the settlement, Nova provided GMAC with the required proof of loss and was indemnified for the entire amount above its retention.
Nova and Santa Lucia each filed motions for summary judgment, which were denied. Nova argued that Mr. Santa Lucia’s payment defense was prohibited under Florida’s collateral source rule. The court disagreed, noting that reinsurance was not listed among the collateral sources covered under the statute. Likewise, the court found unpersuasive Mr. Santa Lucia’s argument that GMAC was the real party in interest. The reinsurance contracts stated that GMAC has no right to reimbursement unless Nova succeeds in a claim related to the loss. Nova Casualty Co. v. Santa Lucia, Case No. 09-1351 (M.D. Fla. Mar. 10, 2011).