INSURANCE: TITLE INSURANCE: REDUCED REISSUE RATES; CIVIL PROCEDURE: CLASS ACTION: SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Bleich v. Chicago Title Insurance Company, ___ So. 3d ___, 38 Fla. L. Weekly D1231 (Fla. 3d DCA June 5, 2013)

The appellate court affirmed summary judgment for the insurer in a class action lawsuit alleging that it systematically “overcharge[d] for title insurance in mortgage refinance transactions.”  Title insurance premiums are governed by the Florida Financial Services Commission.  A reduced rate applies when a policy is reissued if both of two conditions are met: (1) “a previous owner’s policy [was] issued insuring the seller or mortgagor in the current transaction,” and (2) “both the reissuing agent and the reissuing underwriter . . . retained[ed] for their files copies of the prior owner’s policy.”  The court rejected the plaintiff’s contention that insurers should be required ‘to conduct a ‘reasonable search’ for prior policies to protect eligible homeowners from being overcharged.”  The court refused “to look behind the face of the regulation for a legislative intent” or to impose a duty that would “rewrite the regulation.”  Whether the failure to impose a reasonable search requirement would render illusory the reissue rate “by permitting the insurer to be willfully blind when presented with a prior policy,” was a matter “more appropriately addressed on an individual basis based on specifically pled allegations,” and “[c]rafting a statute to curb [this] potential abuse . . . [lay within] the province of the legislature [rather than] the judiciary.”