In 1982, Florida's Legislature became the first in the United States to create the right to bring a private lawsuit for an insurance company's violations of the Unfair Insurance Trade Practices Act (UITPA).
UITPA, on the books since the mid-'70s, described and prohibited many unfair claims practices but saw them enforced only by the limited staff employed in the Insurance Commissioner's office. The 1982 law (Florida statute 624.155) commonly known as Florida's Bad Faith Statute, provides outside-the-contract remedies for consumers with a Florida claim i.e. punitive damages. It promised much, but in its infancy brought little and was sparsely used. Though uninsured motorist claimants at the trial level were quick to benefit from the statute's plain effort to include them, appellate cases were slow to come, scattered and inconsistent. Even the basic procedural and substantive issues, undefined by either the statute or its legislative history, went largely begging for resolution.
Bad faith insurance litigation has now become part of the American landscape and an accepted tool to balance the playing field between insurers and policyholders. Although Florida’s bad faith insurance law has now matured it is still a complex area of law. The battle lines are better developed than ever before, the stakes are enormous, and the resolution important to anyone who owns insurance.