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Windhaven Insurance Co. v. Mesquita

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

July 31, 2019

Windhaven Insurance Company, Petitioner,
Pedro Martin Mesquita, Respondent.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          On Petition for Writ of Certiorari from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, Lower Tribunal No. 19-242 Barbara Areces, Judge.

          Blanca D. Cruz, P.A., and Shelley Ray Senecal, for petitioner.

          Vargas Gonzalez Hevia Baldwin, LLP, and Matthew L. Baldwin; Colson Hicks Eidson, P.A., and William A. Bonner, for respondent.

          Before FERNANDEZ, SCALES and MILLER, JJ.

          SCALES, J.

         Petitioner Windhaven Insurance Company ("Windhaven"), the defendant automobile insurer in this first-party case, seeks certiorari review of two discovery orders entered by the trial court. We deny the petition because the trial court did not depart from the essential requirements of law when, under the rather unique circumstances of this case, it compelled the deposition of Windhaven's representative.

         I. Relevant Facts and Procedural Background

         In July 2017, respondent Pedro Martin Mesquita ("Mesquita") was involved in an automobile accident. After Windhaven sought to rescind the policy due to an alleged misrepresentation in Mesquita's insurance application, Mesquita filed a single-count complaint against Windhaven for breach of contract. Mesquita's original complaint alleged unspecified damages resulting from Windhaven's "fail[ure] to provide either coverage or payment to [Mesquita] for his losses stemming from the Loss." Windhaven, under the impression that Mesquita was seeking insurance proceeds only for damage sustained by Mesquita's own automobile, answered the complaint and asserted as an affirmative defense that the policy contained no collision or comprehensive coverage for Mesquita's vehicle.

         Before Windhaven filed its answer, however, Mesquita filed an amended complaint, again for unspecified damages. Mesquita's amended complaint alleged that he "suffered personal injuries and other covered losses as a result of a traffic accident." It appears from the record that, at the time Mesquita filed his amended complaint, Mesquita also had received a property damage subrogation demand from the insurer of the other automobile involved in the accident. Oddly, though, this pending subrogation demand was not referenced in Mesquita's amended complaint. Rather than answering the amended complaint, [1] Windhaven filed a Notice of Confession of Judgment, acknowledging that Mesquita "is entitled to coverage for Personal Injury Protection Benefits as well as coverage for any Properly (sic) damage claims against him pursuant to the policy in question." Windhaven also conceded Mesquita's entitlement to reasonable attorney's fees and costs.

         At the time Windhaven filed its confession of judgment, Mesquita already had filed a motion to compel the deposition of Windhaven's representative, which was pending. The trial court conducted a hearing on this motion, ultimately granting the motion without limiting the scope of the allowable inquiry to only PIP or property damages. The order, however, did prohibit Mesquita from seeking any financial information regarding Windhaven.[2] Shortly thereafter, Windhaven moved for rehearing. The trial court denied Windhaven's rehearing motion. Windhaven filed the instant petition challenging the two orders and we stayed the proceedings below pending our adjudication of the petition.

         II. Analysis

         Windhaven argues that, because of Windhaven's confession of judgment, the trial court departed from the essential requirements of law by allowing Mesquita to take the deposition of Windhaven's representative. Windhaven appears to suggest that, by its filing a confession of judgment, the case has ended and discovery - especially discovery as to why Windhaven initially might have denied coverage - is irrelevant.

         The problem with Windhaven's argument is two-fold. First, the case is not over, for the issue of damages remains to be adjudicated. The limited record before us contains no evidence as to the amount of damages to which Mesquita may be entitled under the policy's PIP provision. Similarly, the limited record before this Court does not quantify either the damages that Windhaven may suffer as a result of the third-party subrogation claim asserted against Mesquita (for which the confession of judgment admits coverage), or the damages, if any, sustained by ...

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