Florida’s personal injury protection automobile insurance system has long been controversial, rife with fraud and subject to legislative attempts to rein it in. Colodny, Fass, Talenfeld, Karlinsky, Abate & Webb is credited with helping expose PIP fraud.
The Fort Lauderdale firm, representing United Automobile Insurance Co., defeated a putative statewide class action brought by chiropractors by successfully establishing their filings were fraudulent and claims meritless. A Miami-Dade circuit judge denied class certification in August and admonished the chiropractors and their lawyers for failing to obtain evidence to support their claims.
The Chiropractic Center of Miramar claimed the insurance company wrongfully denied payment of PIP benefits to chiropractors.
Under Florida’s PIP system, insurance companies are required to pay up to $10,000 per person for medical treatment, regardless of who was at fault.
After the case dragged on since 2002 with virtually no progress, Colodny Fass managing litigation shareholder Maria Elena Abate, partner Amy Koltnow and associate Abidemi Oladipo pushed for an evidentiary hearing that led to the judge’s decision.
In denying class certification in May, the judge held the chiropractic center did not move for certification until nine years after the complaint was filed and made no attempt to identify other class members. The judge also held the claims for PIP benefits can’t be resolved by a class action since decisions on whether provided medical services were reasonable and necessary must be made individually.
In another significant victory, the firm, representing Olympus Insurance Co., won summary judgment in a case that is likely to help other insurers defeat costly sinkhole coverage claims.
At issue in the case was the meaning of the phrase “structural damage to the building.” A Polk circuit judge held the phrase meant damage to the load-bearing parts and material that ensure a building’s stability. That trounced opposing counsel’s contention that any type of damage to a building obligates the insurance carrier to conduct testing to rule out the existence of sinkhole activity.
“Even with the passage of comprehensive sinkhole legislation in 2011, insureds’ lawyers continued to argue that any damage or crack in the building—no matter how slight—meant there was coverage for a sinkhole loss, and many carriers were reluctant to challenge this argument,” Koltnow said. She said the Polk ruling and other recent ones have changed that.
Colodny Fass has two litigation partners and five associates.