Misuse of the Declaratory Judgment Act: When Declaratory Judgment Actions are Brought in Conjunction with an Action for Breach of Contract

In situations where a plaintiff has asserted a cause of action against an insurance carrier for breach of the insurance contract and declaratory relief, the declaratory action is frequently based upon the same underlying facts and alternatively seeks a declaration that the contract was breached by the insurer. Thus, courts are left to make the same determination in the declaratory judgment action as the determination sought in the breach of contract action – whether or not the carrier breached the contract by denying coverage that was otherwise available.  Under Florida’s declaratory judgment act, [t]he circuit and county courts have jurisdiction within their respective jurisdictional amounts to declare rights, status, and other equitable or legal relations whether or not further relief is or could be claimed. No action or procedure is open to objection on the ground that a declaratory judgment is demanded. The court’s declaration may be either affirmative or negative in form and effect and such declaration has the force and effect of a final judgment. The court may render declaratory judgments on the existence, or nonexistence: (1) Of any immunity, power, privilege, or right; or (2) Of any fact upon which the existence or nonexistence of such immunity, power, privilege, or right does or may depend, whether such immunity, power, privilege, or right now exists or will arise in the future. Any person seeking a declaratory judgment may also demand additional, alternative, coercive, subsequent, or supplemental relief in the same action. § 86.011, Fla. Stat. However, “disputed questions […]

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