In this opinion issued by the Third District Court of Appeal (No. 3D22-398), the insured reported that their property was damaged by rainwater which entered through the roof and damaged the interior. The insurer provided coverage for physical loss to the dwelling, but excluded coverage for loss caused by rain unless a covered peril first damaged the building causing an opening and the rain entered through this opening. Following its field adjuster’s inspection, the insurer determined that roof displayed wear and tear instead of a wind created opening, and coverage was denied.
At trial, both the insurer and insured presented testimony from a meteorologist and engineer. The insured also presented the testimony of their public adjuster. Rather than present the testimony of the field adjuster or introduce the field adjuster’s report, the insurer’s corporate representative testified that after reviewing the claim file, including the adjuster’s photos and findings, the insurer agreed with the adjuster’s determination that there was no covered loss to the roof. The insured’s counsel objected to the testimony based on the corporate representative’s lack of personal knowledge. A verdict in favor of the insurer was ultimately rendered by the jury.
On appeal, the 3rd DCA determined that it was an abuse of discretion for the trial court to permit “clearly inadmissible hearsav testimony” from the insurer’s corporate representative. The trial court noted that Rule 1.310 (b) (6) permits a corporation to designate an individual to appear at deposition, but this is a discovery rule, not a trial hearsay exception.
It was reversible error to allow a witness to testify as to the contents of a business record without admitting the business record itself into evidence. The corporate representative is only competent to testify from personal knowledge, unless the field adjuster report was introduced at trial. Even more, this erroneous admission of the hearsay testimony was not harmless.
Speak to a Homeowners’ Insurance Attorney
Contact our office at 321-342-1759 to speak with one of our homeowners’ insurance attorneys if you would like to discuss the particulars of your situation. We present the material contained on our website and pages, including this Blog, for general informational purposes only. It does not constitute the rendering of legal advice and does not create any attorney-client relationship. If you need legal or other professional advice, you should consult with legal counsel about your particular facts and circumstances. Contact us to see how we may be able to fight for your claim!