Congratulations go out to St. Johns Insurance Company for their appellate victory based on Florida’s Homestead Exemption.  In One Call Property Services, Inc. a/a/o Carl & June Schlanger v. St. Johns Ins. Co., the Fourth DCA affirmed the trial court’s summary judgment, which invalidated the assignment of benefits secured by the contractor based on Florida’s homestead exemption.  The victory is bittersweet in that the lower court’s order granting summary judgment was upheld per curiam affirmed, without a written opinion.

In the lower court, we successfully argued that insurance proceeds are treated as homestead property under Florida law.   For any homestead property, an assignment of benefits seeks to divest the homeowner of homestead-protected insurance proceeds through an unsecured agreement, and is therefore invalid as a matter of law.

Florida employs a strong public policy in favor of protecting homestead property, which extends not only to the property itself, but also to any insurance proceeds obtained as a result of damage to that property. The Florida Supreme Court has also stated that it is “committed to a liberal interpretation of the homestead law.” As a result, insurance proceeds for homestead property are constitutionally protected and cannot be divested from a homeowner through an unsecured agreement.  Because an assignment of benefits is an unsecured agreement that seeks to divest the homeowner of insurance proceeds from homestead property, it should be deemed null and void as against public policy.

The Order from the Fourth District may be accessed here

We welcome any questions or input.

 

-David J. Salmon