Make us your home page
Instagram

Citizens offers to settle sinkhole lawsuits

About 2,100 customers who have or are planning to sue Citizens Property Insurance over sinkhole claims will soon be getting offers to settle.

The state-run company announced Wednesday it is mailing proposals to current and potentially future litigants this week that offer to pay for repairs. But there are strings attached, including a requirement that customers will no longer be paid to make the necessary repairs. Instead, Citizens will pay the contractor directly.

Dubbed "Grout in the Ground", the proposal is part of an effort to settle sinkhole claims, as well as avoid future risk. The letter invokes recent sinkhole mishaps in Seffner, Clermont and Dunedin to encourage customers to agree to settle.

"While we recognize that these events are extremely rare occurrences, Citizens' primary goal is making you and your family safe immediately," the letter stated.

If homeowners accept the offer, they must drop their lawsuits against Citizens, agreeing to pay their own legal bills and fees.

"This is an attempt to see if we can settle some of these cases," said Citizens spokesman Michael Peltier. "It's been our policy not to write blank checks. This is an expansion on that."

Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, represents parts of Pasco and Hernando that are susceptible to sinkholes. He hailed the settlement offer, which he encouraged in meeting with Citizens officials, as a practical way to reduce litigation costs while providing customers with the coverage they need.

"What we're trying to do is get the homes properly repaired," Simpson said. "That's the primary concern. This is the right way to do it. There's no downside at all in this plan."

Simpson said too many customers spent claims money on other expenses or didn't spend the money at all, making the homes vulnerable for themselves or for those who buy the homes later.

Frequent Citizens critic and former state lawmaker Mike Fasano, who is now the Pasco tax collector, said he was happy to hear that the company will require that the money be spent on repairs.

But he questioned the chosen method of repair: grouting. He said grouting is more expensive than other methods, such as pinning.

"This will cost Citizens a fortune," Fasano said. "Grouting is expensive. Companies will pour cement just to meet the total cost of the claim. They'll grout until the cows come home in some cases."

Lawyers like Dan Fritz, who represent homeowners against Citizens, say the latest offer was an insincere one.

"Citizens is the only insurance company in Florida that is forcing homeowners to put 'grout in the ground,' which is what they were doing in Dunedin when the collapse occurred," said Fritz, general counsel at Sinkhole Public Adjusting LLC in New Port Richey. "Citizens has a strategy which appears to disregard their customer's best interests. We saw Citizens send out a similar letter after the Seffner tragedy, so it doesn't look like a serious offer."

Citizens offers to settle sinkhole lawsuits 12/11/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 8:57pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Clearwater-based USAmeriBanc acquired by New Jersey bank in $816 million deal

    Banking

    CLEARWATER — USAmeriBancorp, Inc., based in Clearwater, is being acquired by New Jersey's Valley National Bancorp in an $816 million deal, it was announced today.

    Joe Chillura, CEO of USAmeribank, shown inside a branch in Ybor City in this file photo.
[KATHLEEN FLYNN l Times]
  2. Outback Steakhouse sees growth in U.S. and Brazil markets in second quarter

    Retail

    TAMPA — Restaurant sales were up at Outback Steakhouse and Carrabba's Italian Grill during the second quarter of 2017, but Bonefish Grill continues to lag at Tampa-based Bloomin' Brands.

    The Outback Steakhouse, on 4088 Park St. N, is showin on July 26, 2017. Restaurant sales were up at Outback Steakhouse  and Carrabba's Italian Grill during the second quarter of 2017, but Bonefish Grill continues to lag at Tampa-based Bloomin' Brands. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
  3. Controversial landfill site could be rechristened as industrial recruiting land in Pasco

    Economic Development

    The east Pasco property of Angelo's Aggregate Materials, which failed to obtain a state environmental permit to be developed as a garbage landfill, is being studied as a potential 1,000-acre mega site for industrial recruitment.

  4. Marriott opening new hotel on Clearwater Beach

    Tourism

    CLEARWATER BEACH — A dual-branded Marriott hotel with a tongue-twister name is opening on Clearwater Beach in August. The Residence Inn Tampa Clearwater Beach and SpringHill Suites Tampa Clearwater Beach will have 255 suites total, connected by a lobby.

    A dual-branded Marriott hotel called the Residence Inn Tampa Clearwater Beach and SpringHill Suites Tampa Clearwater Beach will open in August in Clearwater Beach. Pictured is a rendering.
[Courtesy of Hayworth PR]
  5. Irish 31 brings flair, flavor to Wiregrass

    Business

    WESLEY CHAPEL — Irish 31 Pub House & Eatery opened its fifth location at The Shops at Wiregrass earlier this month.

    hillsevbiz072117: Irish 31 has opened at the Shops at Wiregrass with a warm, wood decor. Photo courtesy of Irish 31.