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City of Bradenton v. Safety National Casualty Corp.

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division

June 6, 2017

CITY OF BRADENTON, Plaintiff,
v.
SAFETY NATIONAL CASUALTY CORP., Defendant.

          ORDER

          VIRGINIA M. HERNANDEZ COVINGTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court upon consideration of Defendant Safety National Casualty Corporation's Motion for Summary Judgment, filed on May 1, 2017. (Doc. # 14). Plaintiff City of Bradenton filed a response in opposition on May 19, 2017. (Doc. # 16). For the reasons that follow, the Motion is denied.

         I. Background

         In October of 2000, Safety National and the City entered into an insurance contract for excess workers' compensation coverage with a policy period of October 1, 2001, to October 1, 2002. (Doc. # 14-1). Under the policy, Safety National would provide coverage to the City for any loss above a specified amount the City incurred on account of an employee's bodily injury caused by an accident or occupational disease. (Id. at 1). The specified amount the City had to incur before the policy's excess coverage applied was $400, 000. (Id. at 8). The policy additionally states under the heading “Reimbursement”:

If the [City] pays any Loss incurred in any Liability Period in excess of the [$400, 000] Self-Insured Retention Per Occurrence, [Safety National] shall reimburse the [City] upon receipt of a formal proof of loss and other evidence acceptable to [Safety National] of such payment. Within a reasonable period of time, reimbursement payments shall be made by [Safety National].

(Id. at 5).

         In April of 2001, a City of Bradenton police officer, J.L., tested positive for Hepatitis C and was deemed disabled in December of 2001. (Doc. # 2 at ¶ 6; Doc. # 14-2). Under Florida law, police officers who contract Hepatitis C under certain conditions are deemed to have contracted the disease in the line of duty. (Doc. # 1 at ¶ 7). Because the police officer met those statutory conditions, he was able to submit a workers' compensation claim that the City accepted. (Id.).

         The City sent Safety National “Large Loss Reports, ” which summarized the benefits the City had paid out to J.L. and provided status updates on his condition. (Doc. # 14-9). The “Large Loss Report” dated August 31, 2011, reflected that the City had paid benefits exceeding $400, 000. (Doc. # 14-9 at 5-6). On October 10, 2011, Safety National sent the City a letter stating, in relevant part,

We have completed our investigation and determined that we must deny coverage of the loss as it was reported late and, as a result, we were kept from the opportunity to participate in the investigation and defense of the claim. Further, the loss did not occur during our Liability Period. . . . The correct date of loss is 5/29/1999 which pre-dates our liability coverage. Under the Coverage of Agreement section cited above, our policy only covers occurrences that take place within our Liability Period.

(Doc. # 14-11). The City received the letter on October 25, 2011. (Doc. # 14-12 at 2-3).

         Despite Safety National's letter, the City sent Safety National an initial Request for Excess Reimbursement on June 28, 2012. (Doc. # 14-14). Safety National denied the City's first Request for Reimbursement on June 28, 2012, in an email stating, “Thank you for the correspondence and request for reimbursement on the above claim. However, Safety National has denied coverage for this claim on 10/10/2011. Our position remains unchanged.” (Doc. # 14-15). The City submitted numerous requests for reimbursement in the following months, all of which Safety National denied on the same grounds. (Doc. # 14-16).

         The City filed its Complaint in state court on November 23, 2016, bringing claims for declaratory relief and breach of contract. (Doc. # 2). Safety National removed the case to this Court on February 2, 2017, and filed its answer and affirmative defenses on February 13, 2017. (Doc. ## 1, 5). As one of its affirmative defenses, Safety National “affirmatively states that the applicable Statute of Limitations precludes the City from pursuing the relief that it is seeking in this action.” (Doc. # 5 at 6).

         With the Court's permission (Doc. # 12 at 1), Safety National filed its Motion for Summary Judgment addressing only the statute of limitations issue on May 1, 2017. (Doc. # 14). The City responded on May 19, 2017. (Doc. # 16). The Motion is ripe for review.

         II. ...


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