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Appeals court ruled too quickly on Allstate ban

This much we know: Allstate Corp. can keep writing new insurance policies in Florida at least until Tuesday, thanks to a premature move by an appeals court. Six days premature, to be exact.

Late Monday, the 15-member 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee denied Allstate's request for a new hearing, paving the way for state regulators to ban the company from selling any new policies in the state. But half an hour after issuing its ruling, the court withdrew it, blaming the move on a clerical error.

In a rare news release Tuesday morning, the court explained that the ruling was yanked "in order to give the entire court its full time authorized by court rules to consider the motion for rehearing that was prematurely cut off by the erroneously issued order.''

Legal experts say one or more judges may have disagreed with the ruling or wanted more time to consider Allstate's April 14 motion. Another possibility is that all the judges agreed with the decision to deny Allstate another hearing, but the court noticed it has to wait 11 business days before it can weigh in, and Monday's ruling jumped the gun by nearly a week.

State regulators are trying to force Allstate to turn over documents it says are crucial to an investigation into the company's rate-setting policies. Allstate, which could lose as much as $500,000 a month in new auto business alone, says it is complying with state requests.

Neither side would comment on the case Tuesday.

But appellate lawyer Tom Elligett, an adjunct professor at Stetson University College of Law, thinks Monday's ruling denying Allstate's motion should have circulated through the court "to give more time for other court members to weigh in. By issuing it when they did, time had not yet run out."

Is it likely the court's initial decision would change?

"It doesn't appear to be a typo, where no means yes," Elligett said. "It appears to be a procedural error. Come the 29th, I think you'll see something.

"Absent the granting of a rehearing, it will be an order that looks just like what you saw Monday."

Tom Zucco can be reached at zucco@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8247.

Appeals court ruled too quickly on Allstate ban 04/22/08 [Last modified: Thursday, April 24, 2008 1:10pm]
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