Understanding Liability Insurer’s Two Duties: To Defend and to Indemnify

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An insurers’ duty to defend is separate from its duty to indemnify.

December 26, 2022
David Adelstein - Florida Construction Legal Updates

A liability insurer has two duties that are the crux of a liability policy: the duty to defend the insured in legal actions and the duty to indemnify the insured from losses covered under the policy. Many times, policyholders (insureds) do not fully understand or appreciate these two important duties. They need to and this is why having private counsel assist with coverage-related considerations is an absolute must.

An insurers’ duty to defend is separate from its duty to indemnify. A recent opinion out of the Middle District of Florida in Progressive Express Ins. Co. v. Tate Transport Corp., 2022 WL 16963815 (M.D.Fla. 2022) clarifies the distinction between these duties with a focus on an insurer’s initial duty — the duty to defend. Please read below so you can have more of an appreciation of these duties. The court does a good job discussing Florida law with the emphasis on when an insurer’s initial duty to defend kicks-in:

Duty to Defend
Under Florida law, “an insurer’s duty to defend its insured against a legal action arises when the complaint alleges facts that fairly and potentially bring the suit within policy coverage.” The duty to defend is a broad one, broader than the duty to indemnify, and “[t]he merits of the underlying suit are irrelevant.” We determine whether an insurer has a duty to defend its insured based only on “the eight corners of the complaint and the policy,” and only as the complaint’s alleged facts are “fairly read[.]” The “facts” we consider in evaluating the duty to defend come solely from the complaint, regardless of the actual facts of the case and regardless of any later developed and contradictory factual record. “Any doubts regarding

Mr. Adelstein may be contacted at dma@kirwinnorris.com


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