FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF
for Writ of Certiorari to the Circuit Court for Hillsborough
County; William P. Levens, Judge.
Richard Young and Joshua J. Hartley of Young, Bill, Boles,
Palmer, and Duke, P.A., Pensacola, for Petitioner.
appearance for Respondent.
General Insurance Company seeks a writ of certiorari to quash
the trial court's order joining it to the final judgment
against its insured, Laura Franklin. We grant GEICO's
petition for certiorari and quash the trial court's
Nocella was involved in an automobile accident with Ms.
Franklin, who carried a GEICO automobile insurance policy.
Ms. Nocella prevailed in a negligence action against Ms.
Franklin and, on June 24, 2016, the trial court entered a
final judgment awarding Ms. Nocella $222, 119 in damages,
reserving jurisdiction to determine attorney's fees and
taxable costs. On July 26, 2016, thirty-two days after entry
of the final damages judgment, Ms. Nocella moved to join
GEICO as a party defendant to the judgment against Ms.
Franklin pursuant to section 627.4136(4), Florida Statutes
(2016). After a hearing, the trial court entered a
one-sentence order granting Ms. Nocella's motion to join
GEICO as a party defendant.
obtain a writ of certiorari, the petitioner must show (1) a
departure from the essential requirements of the law, (2)
resulting in material injury for the remainder of the case
(3) that cannot be corrected on postjudgment appeal."
Bd. of Regents v. Snyder, 826 So.2d 382, 387 (Fla.
2d DCA 2002).
627.4136(4) states that a liability insurer may be joined as
a party defendant as follows: "At the time a judgment is
entered or a settlement is reached during the pendency of
litigation, a liability insurer may be joined as a party
defendant for the purposes of entering final judgment or
enforcing the settlement by the motion of any party . . .
." Accord ACE Am. Ins. Co. v. HCP III of Bradenton,
Inc., 913 So.2d 1280, 1281 (Fla. 2d DCA 2005)
(explaining that "a liability carrier may be joined at
or before the time judgment is entered against its
Rule of Civil Procedure 1.530(g) sets a fifteen-day deadline
to move to alter or amend a judgment as follows: "A
motion to alter or amend the judgment shall be served not
later than 15 days after entry of the judgment . . .
." (Emphasis added.) Our court has held that both the
statute and the rule apply to the joinder of insurers to
judgments against their insureds. Nova Cas. Co. v. Wilson
Developers, LLC, 212 So.3d 477, 478 (Fla. 2d DCA 2017)
(first citing ACE Am. Ins. Co., 913 So.2d at 1281;
then quoting C.A. Seguros Catatumbo v. Herrera, 812
So.2d 576, 577 (Fla. 3d DCA 2002)). The latest that Ms.
Nocella could have moved to join GEICO to the damages
judgment was July 11, 2016. After the fifteen-day period set
forth in rule 1.530(g) elapsed, the judgment became final and
GEICO could no longer be added as a party. Nova Cas.
Co., 212 So.3d at 478 (citing Herrera, 812
So.2d at 577-78).
it is undisputed that Ms. Nocella filed her motion to join
GEICO on July 26, 2016-thirty-two days after entry of the
final judgment and fifteen days after July 11, 2016.
Accordingly, she failed to satisfy both section 627.4136(4)
and the fifteen-day requirement in rule 1.530(g). Therefore,
the trial court departed from the essential requirements of
the law by granting Ms. Nocella's motion to join GEICO to
the damages judgment. See Nova Cas. Co., 212 So.3d
trial court's departure resulted in irreparable harm
because, after fifteen days, the judgment against Ms.
Franklin became final, preventing GEICO from disputing Ms.
Franklin's entitlement to coverage or the amount of
coverage under GEICO's policy for that matter.
Id. ("The trial court departed from the
essential requirements of the law by joining Nova as party to
a final judgment that had been already rendered. Nova is
irreparably harmed because it has been made responsible for
coverage without having been given an opportunity to raise
any defenses it might have to the determination of
entitlement to coverage or the amount of coverage.").
Accordingly, we grant GEICO's petition for certiorari and
quash the trial court's order joining GEICO to Ms.
Nocella's judgment against Ms. Franklin.
granted; order quashed.
VILLANTI and ...