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Florida Second DCA rules that insurance company which did not provide liability coverage to its insured but provided courtesy representation at trial could not be joined as a codefendant in the final judgment

On March 26, 2021, in Security National Insurance Co. v. Gonzalez, No. 2D18-3427, the Florida Second DCA considered a motor vehicle negligence case involving the application of § 727.4136, Florida States, Florida’s nonjoinder statute, which permits the joinder of a liability insurer to a lawsuit against its insured for the purpose of enforcing a settlement or collecting damages, but only if the insured first obtains settlement or verdict against a person who is an insured under the terms of the policy for a cause of action which is covered under the policy. The nonjoinder statute was enacted to ensure that the availability of insurance has no influence on the jury's determination of damages. In this case, the insurer had denied providing the defendant with any liability coverage but “for reasons unclear from the record” had represented the defendant at trial even though the only coverage the insurance company did provide, relating to property damages, had already been paid out in pre-trial settlement of the plaintiff’s property damage claim. Because the remaining causes of action were not “covered under the policy”, as required by the nonjoinder statute, the Second DCA reversed a trial court ruling which had permitted the joinder of the insurance company as a co-defendant to the final judgment.