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Gulf Coast Vacation Properties, LLC v. Gulfstream Property & Casualty Insurance Co.

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

January 14, 2020

GULF COAST VACATION PROPERTIES, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
GULFSTREAM PROPERTY & CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

          ORDER

          SUSAN C. BUCKLEW, UNITED STALES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This cause comes before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss for Improper Venue. (Doc. No. 12). Plaintiff opposes the motion. (Doc. No. 13). As explained below, the Court agrees with Defendant that this case was not filed in the proper venue.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Gulf Coast Vacation Properties, LLC alleges the following in its complaint (Doc. No. 1): Defendant Gulfstream Property & Casualty Insurance Company issued a flood insurance policy to Plaintiff for its premises located in Port Saint Joe, Florida. The flood insurance policy is governed by the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968.

         In October of 2018 while the flood insurance policy was in place, Plaintiff suffered a total loss of the insured premises due to Hurricane Michael. Plaintiff reported the loss to Defendant and submitted a claim for the damage. Defendant inspected the property to evaluate the amount of damage and tendered payment to Plaintiff. Plaintiff contends that the amount Defendant tendered was not sufficient to compensate Plaintiff for its loss, so Plaintiff filed this lawsuit for breach of the insurance contract.

         II. Standard of Review

         Defendant contends that this case should be dismissed because it was filed in an improper venue. In analyzing the motion, the Court applies the following standard of review:

When an action is commenced in an improper venue, this Court must dismiss the action, or in the interest of justice, transfer the matter to a district in which the action could have properly been brought. 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a). When considering a motion to dismiss for improper venue, the court must accept all allegations in the complaint as true, unless contradicted by the defendant's affidavits. . . . The court . . . draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. On a motion to dismiss for improper venue, the plaintiff has the burden of showing that venue in the forum is proper.

Sfera Jet LLC v. IBX Jets, LLC, 2017 WL 1293771, at *1 (S.D. Fla. Feb. 3, 2017)(internal citations omitted).

         III. National Flood Insurance Act

         The insurance policy at issue in this case is governed by the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 (“NFIA”). Therefore, before the Court analyzes the motion to dismiss, it must first explain how the NFIA affects this case. As explained by one court:

[The National Flood Insurance Program (“NFIP”)] is a federally supervised and guaranteed insurance program presently administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) pursuant to the NFIA and its corresponding regulations. . . . In 1983, pursuant to regulatory authority granted by Congress in 42 U.S.C. § 4081(a), FEMA created the “Write Your Own” (“WYO”) program. See 44 C.F.R. §§ 62.23-.24. Under this program, private insurance companies [WYO companies] . . . write their own insurance policies. 44 C.F.R. § 62.23. . . . [R]egardless whether FEMA or a WYO company issues a flood insurance policy, the United States treasury funds pay off the insureds' claims.
Although WYO companies have the responsibility of defending against claims, FEMA reimburses the WYO companies for their defense costs. WYO companies are fiscal agents of the United States. However, WYO companies are not general agents of the federal government. FEMA fixes the terms and conditions of the flood insurance policies, which, barring the express written consent of the Federal Insurance ...

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