Victory for Florida Peninsula Insurance Company last night in Pinellas County when the jury returned a verdict that the homeowner intentionally caused a loss to his own property!
In Abbasi v. Florida Peninsula Insurance Company, Florida Peninsula relied upon the intentional acts exclusion of the policy as well as the fraud or concealment provision. The verdict form required the jury to first answer whether the homeowner intentionally caused the loss before it reached the question of whether he intentionally misrepresented materials facts. After 3 hours of deliberations, the jury concluded Mr. Abbasi intentionally caused a loss to his property. The jury did not have to answer any other questions on the verdict form once it reached this conclusion.
Both parties retained experts that focused exclusively on the fire loss. However, the first responding officer testified that he knocked the kitchen fire down in 15 seconds. When he turned his fire hose off, he heard water running. He noticed the kitchen sink piled with dishes and water overflowing the sink. Plaintiff never addressed the firefighter’s testimony about the running water. After two weeks of testimony about the origin and cause of the fire, Florida Peninsula’s closing argument first focused on the intentional act of the water loss!
Moments before the verdict was rendered, the jurors sent a written question to the courtroom. The jury asked if it answered, “Yes”, to the question about whether or not Mr. Abbasi intentionally caused a loss, “does that mean Plaintiff caused the fire loss?” Interestingly, if three jurors thought the homeowner intentionally caused the water loss and three thought he intentionally caused the fire, there could be a unanimous verdict that the insured intentionally caused the loss. In fact, during argument and discussion over the intentional acts exclusion, the plaintiff tried to limit the application of the intentional acts exclusion to the fire loss while Florida Peninsula wanted an instruction that was more broad to include any intentional act.
Quarles & Brady represented the homeowner, Mounir Abbasi. Paul Parrish and Kelly Edson spearheaded the plaintiff’s trial team, which ranged from six to ten persons throughout the trial. David Salmon, Jim Goodnow, and Jennifer Marino represented Florida Peninsula while Valerie Owen served as corporate representative. Plaintiff experts included Patrick Kennedy, Stephen Raeburn, and Enservio. Defense experts included Paul Haas and Dr. Baubraskas aka “Dr. Fire”. Groelle & Salmon handled the claim from the examination under oath through trial.