In Pawtucket Mutual Insurance Company v. Manganelli, 34 FLW D386 (Fla. 4th DCA February 18, 2009), Pawtucket provided uninsured motorists coverage to the Manganelli’s who had been injured in a car accident. Under the UM policy, the Manganelli’s requested to arbitrate their UM claim with Pawtucket. The policy provided that such arbitration take place where the insureds "live." Pawtucket claimed that the Manganelli’s lived in New Hampshire, while the Manganelli’s stated they lived in Palm Beach, Florida.
The Manganelli’s filed a declaratory judgment action seeking a declaration that they indeed "lived" in Palm Beach County and that the arbitration should take place there. The trial court ruled in the Manganelli’s favor, and they moved for attorneys fees under Florida Statutes Section 627.428 and 627.727(8). The trial court granted the Manganelli’s request for fees, and Pawtucket appealed.
The 4th DCA affirmed, ruling that the award of attorneys fees was appropriate where the carrier wrongfully caused the insured to resort to litigation to resolve a conflict. According to the court, "[t]hough Pawtucket did not deny coverage per se, by maintaining that arbitration had to take place in New Hampshire, it forced Manganelli to engage in litigation unnecessarily in the face of Manganelli’s insistence that he ‘lived’ in Palm Beach County."