Elaine Gattus purchased a homeowner’s policy from Gulfstream Property and Casualty Insurance Company (Gulfstream). The policy included a provision that stated “[a]ssignment of this policy will not be valid unless we give our written consent.” After Gattus’ home suffered damage, Gattus hired Bioscience West, Inc. (Bioscience) to provide mitigation work, including water removal and construction services. In exchange for Bioscience’s work, Gattus executed an assignment that authorized Bioscience to seek payment from Gulfstream for the work performed at her home. Gulfstream never agreed to the assignment from Gattus to Bioscience.
Gatus submitted a claim to Gulfstream for Bioscience’s services. Gulfstream denied the claim after concluding the claim was not covered by the policy. Subsequent to this denial, Bioscience – as an assignee under Gattus’ homeowner’s policy – filed suit against Gulfstream for a breach of policy. Gulfstream argued that Bioscience’s suit was without merit considering Gattus’ policy included the above provision prohibiting the assignment of the policy without Gulfstream’s consent.
Bioscience countered that the policy’s language restricting the assignment of the policy prohibited Gattus’ assignment of the entire policy without Gulfstream’s consent. Bioscience argued that the assignment from Gattus to Bioscience did not confer the entire policy to Bioscience. Rather, the assignment only granted Bioscience “a benefit derived from the policy.”
In interpreting the plain language of the policy, the court held that “assignment of this policy” referred to the “entire policy, not something less than the entire policy such as the proceeds derived from a benefit of the policy.” Based on this reasoning, the court ruled in favor of Bioscience in holding that the assignment in question was an “assignment of a benefit under the policy to Bioscience, namely a right to seek payment for the mitigation services it rendered under the policy, not an assignment of ‘this policy’ issued by Gulfstream to Bioscience.”
The court further held that Florida precedent supports the proposition that “post-loss assignments do not require an insurer’s consent.” Since Gattus assigned the policy to Bioscience after the loss already occurred on her property, the court ruled that “post-loss insurance claims are freely assignable without the consent of the insurer.”
This decision provides an example of how courts will require insurers to be careful in drafting policy language. Specifically, if insurers want to prevent the assignment of something less than the entire policy, then the anti-assignment provision should explicitly incorporate such language.