In United Automobile Insurance Company v. Palm Chiropractic Center, Inc., a/a/o Thomas, ____ So.3d ____ (Fla. 4th DCA 2010), the PIP insurer sent the insured for a compulsory medical examination. Based on the results of the CME, the PIP insurer advised the insured’s medical provider that it would not pay for any further chiropractic care. The insurer sent a check to the provider which stated "Pay to the order of PALM CHIROPRACTIC CTR FOR FULL & FINAL PAYMENT OF PIP BENEFITS F/A/O JOYCE THOMAS." Palm cashed the check.
The insured continued treating with Palm and Palm submitted the bills for those treatments to the PIP insurer for reimbursement. The insurer denied the bills, and suit followed.
The insurer defended by claiming that the language on the check resulted in an "accord and satisfaction." The trial court and circuit court, sitting in its appellate capacity disagreed and ruled against the insurance company.
The 4th DCA denied review on technical grounds, but did make the comment that the trial court and circuit court were both wrong on the law, and that the language on the check did indeed work as an accord and satisfaction.
It appears that none of the parties or the 4th DCA considered the holding in Union American Insurance Company v. Lee, 625 So.2d 112 (Fla. 4th DCA 1993). In Lee the insured signed a full and complete release of past and future PIP benefits in order to resolve a litigated PIP suit. The insured subsequently filed another lawsuit for PIP benefits regarding treatment that took place after the date of the release. The insurer argued that the prior release precluded this subsequent lawsuit. The 4th DCA disagreed, ruling that
Since PIP benefits only include expenses already incurred, and not those which might be incurred in the future, we conclude that if the broad language of this release is sufficient to include future benefits, it is not enforceable because it is contrary to the public policy behind our no-fault insurance law.
If a release signed in order to settle a lawsuit cannot operate to release future PIP benefits, then there is no way that the language on the insurer’s check in this case should do so.
It seems that everyone involved simply missed the Lee case which would control this issue.