United States District Court, S.D. Florida, Miami Division
EXPRESS DAMAGE RESTORATION, LLC, as assignee of Annie Santalla, Plaintiff,
WRIGHT NATIONAL FLOOD INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO
LAWRENCE KING JUDGE
CAUSE comes before the Court on Defendant's Motion to
Dismiss filed October 14, 2019 (DE 6) (the
"Motion"). Plaintiff failed to file a response to
the Motion, and the time to do so has expired. The Motion is
therefore ripe for decision.
Express Damage Restoration, LLC, brings this action for
breach of contract under a Standard Flood Insurance Policy
that Defendant issued to an individual named Annie Santalla,
a non-party to this action. See Compl. ¶ 8, DE
1-1. Plaintiff attempts to bring this action as assignee of
Ms. Santalla based upon an "assignment of insurance
proceeds." Id. ¶ 7, Ex. A. As background,
the Complaint alleges that, on September 10, 2017, Ms.
Santalla's property sustained flood damage due to
Hurricane Irma. Id. ¶¶ 8-9. The Complaint
alleges that Ms. Santalla "retained Plaintiff to perform
necessary mold test services at the Property," and that
"Defendant's refusal to pay for the. services
rendered by the Plaintiff is contrary to the terms of the
Policy." Id. ¶¶ 11, 15. Defendant now
moves to dismiss the Complaint, arguing that Plaintiff lacks
standing to sue under the policy because (a) the policy does
not list Plaintiff as an insured, and (b) the alleged
assignment from Ms. Santalla is barred by the policy and
federal law. See Mot. 6-14.
survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint
must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that
is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A "claim has
facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content
that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). While
the Court's review is generally confined to the four
corners of the complaint, "when the plaintiff refers to
certain documents in the complaint and. those documents are
central to the plaintiffs claim, then the Court may consider
the documents ... ., for purposes of Rule 12(b)(6)
dismissal." Brooks v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield
of Fla., Inc. , 116 F.3d 1364, 1369(11th Cir. 1997).
of the federal government's National Flood Insurance
Program ("NFIP"), Standard Flood Insurance Policies
"are interpreted using principles of federal common
law," Newton v. Capital Assurance Co., 245 F.3d
1306, 1309 (11th Cir. 2001), and must be "strictly
construed and enforced," De La Cruz v. Bankers
Insurance Co., 237 F.Supp.2d 1370, 1373 (S.D. Fla.
2002). "The elements of a breach of contract claim under
federal common law are: (1) a valid contract between the
parties, (2) an obligation or duty arising out of the
contract, (3) a breach of that duty, and (4) damages caused
by the breach." Hernandez-Rodriguez v. Al Sun
Protection, Inc., No. 09-23057-CIV, 2010 WL 996529, at
*2 (S.D. Fla. Mar. 17, 2010) (internal quotation marks
the first element requires that there be a valid contract
between the parties, courts have recognized that only the
named insured is entitled to sue for benefits under a
Standard Flood Insurance Policy. Id. For example, in
Hernandez-Rodriguez, a "burst water pipe caused
water to enter Plaintiffs' apartment, resulting in damage
due to mold, mildew, and other effects from water
intrusion." Id. at *1. The plaintiffs filed
suit under a Standard Flood Insurance Policy that listed only
their condominium association as an insured. Id.
Applying federal law, the court found that the plaintiffs
failed to state a claim for breach of contract, reasoning
that the condo association was "the only party entitled
to benefits under the Policy." See Id. at *3,
Similarly, here, Plaintiff brings suit under a Standard Flood
Insurance Policy that names only Ms. Santalla as an insured.
See Mot. Ex. 1. Because Plaintiff is not an insured
under the policy, Plaintiff cannot satisfy the first element
of a breach of contract claim.
while Plaintiff attempts to bring this action as assignee of
Ms. Santalla under an alleged "assignment of insurance
proceeds," the Court agrees with Defendant's
argument that the assignment is invalid under both the plain
terms of the policy and federal law. As an initial matter,
the policy permits assignments only when the insured
"transfer[s] title of [the] property to someone
else." 44 C.F.R. pt. 6, 1, app. A(1), art. VII(D). No
such transfer of title is alleged in this case, and
-Plaintiff has not pointed to any other provision that would
permit an assignment Of the-policy or any claims under the
policy.. Indeed, as Defendant points out, the NFIP Claims
Manual specifically . states that the "SFIP does not
allow assignment of a claim." See Mot. Ex. 3
(quoting NFIP Claims Manual (June 2019)). The Court also
agrees with Defendant's argument that the assignment
fails. to comply with the Assignment of Claims Act, 31 U.S.C.
§ 3727 et seq., which places restrictions on
the assignment of claims against the federal government.
See Goldstein Grp. Holdings, Inc. v. Hartford Ins.
Co., No. 15-cv-03 851, 2017 WL 448372, at *5 (D.N.J. Feb. 2,
2017) (applying the Act to assignment of claim under Standard
Flood Insurance Policy, "which is written by the federal
government"). As relevant here, the Act requires the
assignment to "be attested to by 2 witnesses," and
states that "the person making the assignment shall
acknowledge it before an official who may acknowledge a deed,
and the official shall certify the assignment." 31
U.S.C. § 3727(b). In this case, however, the assignment
from Ms. Santalla to. Plaintiff was not attested to by any
witnesses and does not contain the requisite certification.
See Compl. Ex. A, DE 1-1.
short, because Plaintiff is not named as an insured on the
policy, and because the alleged assignment from Ms. Santalla
is barred by the policy and the Assignment of Claims Act, the
Court finds that Plaintiffs Complaint must be dismissed for
failure to state a claim.
it is ORDERED, ADJUDGED, and DECREED that
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (DE 6) be,
and the same hereby is, GRANTED; this case
is hereby DISMISSED; and the Clerk shall
CLOSE this case.
and ORDERED in chambers at the James Lawrence King
Federal Justice Building . and United States Courthouse, at