On May 30, 2014, U.S. District Judge Susan Bucklew of the Middle District of Florida granted defendant Brown & Brown, Inc.’s motion for summary judgment, thus successfully vindicating the national insurance agency in a multimillion dollar suit alleging negligent procurement of insurance.
The plaintiff, Vincent Mazzola, alleged that Ronald Lacey caused a 2006 yachting accident that resulted in the death of Mazzola’s wife. Prior to the suit against Brown & Brown, Mazzola sued Lacey, and others, for negligence, which suit was resolved by the entry of a $4 million consent judgment against Lacey. Following recoveries from Lacey’s primary and excess insurers, in early 2013 Mazzola commenced the present action seeking recovery of the remainder of the $4 million judgment against Brown & Brown. Mazzola alleged that Brown & Brown erred in failing to procure a $5 million excess liability policy to insure Lacey’s yacht. Mazzola had no direct contacts with Brown & Brown and, thus, his action was based on a purported written assignment from Lacey. Brown & Brown raised a number of defenses to the claim including no duty and no legal causation.
With a July 2014 trial date pending, Phelps Dunbar in March 2014 moved for summary judgment on behalf of Brown & Brown on the grounds that Mazzola could not maintain the action without an assignment of the causes of action from Lacey, which assignment was not included in the written settlement agreement. Rejecting Mazzola’s last minute attempt to claim an oral assignment, Judge Bucklew ruled in favor of Brown & Brown and held that the settlement agreement unambiguously assigned only the right to the proceeds of Lacey’s causes of action to Mazzola, but did not assign the causes of action. The Court held that Mazzola could not bring the cause of action and entered judgment in Brown & Brown’s favor.