Does Lack of a Definition of An Operative Term In a Policy Render the Term Ambiguous and In Need of Interpretation by the Courts ?
In State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Pridgen, 498 So. 2d 1245 (Fla. 1986), this Court announced the rule to be followed in the interpretation of exclusionary clauses in insurance policies:
Exclusionary provisions which are ambiguous or otherwise susceptible to more than one meaning must be construed in favor of the insured, since it is the insurer who usually drafts the policy. See Excelsior Ins. Co. v. Pomona Park Bar & Package Store, 369 So. 2d 938, 942 (Fla. 1979).
However, "only when a genuine inconsistency, uncertainty, or ambiguity in meaning remains after resort to the ordinary rules of construction is the rule apposite.
It does not allow courts to rewrite contracts, add meaning that is not present, or otherwise reach results contrary to the intentions of the parties." Id. at 1248.
See also Deni Assocs. of Florida, Inc. v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Ins. Co., 711 So. 2d 1135, 1138 (Fla. 1998) (following Pridgen rule for interpretation of exclusionary clauses).
Notably, simply because a provision is complex and requires analysis for application, it is not automatically rendered ambiguous. See Eagle American Ins. Co. v. Nichols, 814 So. 2d 1083, 1085 (Fla. 4th DCA 2002).
Finally, we have consistently held that "in construing insurance policies, courts should read each policy as a whole, endeavoring to give every provision its full meaning and operative effect." Auto-Owners, 756 So. 2d at 34; see also 627.419(1), Fla. Stat. (2002) ("Every insurance contract shall be construed according to the entirety of its terms and conditions as set forth in the policy and as amplified, extended, or modified by any application therefor or any rider or endorsement thereto.").
In State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. v. CTC Development Corp., 720 So. 2d 1072 (Fla. 1998), the court reasoned, "The lack of a definition of an operative term in a policy does not necessarily render the term ambiguous and in need of interpretation by the courts." Id. at 1076.