New Case Law on the “Impartiality” of Appraisers From Florida’s 3rd District Court of Appeal
Brickell Harbour Condominium v. Hamilton Specialty Insurance Company: In an opinion released on October 10, 2018, the Florida 3rd confirmed its position on the impartiality of appraisers finding that “an appraiser’s ‘direct or indirect financial interest in the outcome of the arbitration,’ including an arrangement for a contingent fee, requires disclosure rather than disqualification in the case of an appraiser.”
In Brickell, the Insured made a claim for a leaking water valve. The Insurer investigated the claim and made a payment within 90 days. The Insured refused to agree that the claim had been fully adjusted and the Insurer invoked appraisal. The Insurer refused appraisal because, among other things, the Insurer named as its appraiser, an employee of the same building consultant it hired to investigate the loss. The Insured argued that the appraiser was not impartial. The Insurer argued that the employee was being paid directly by the Insurer or that he or his employer were being paid via a contingency fee.
The Court stated that an appraiser that acts unprofessionally or skews objective calculations is held in check by the neutral umpire selected by the parties. The umpire has the ability to discern the true costs of the repair and render an impartial decision. Further, an umpire can cause the appraisers to negotiate a reasonable compromise.