Make us your home page

Report: In two years, Citizens spent $100M on legal fees

TALLAHASSEE — Citizens Property Insurance spent $100 million in the past two years in legal fees and says its legal bills are rising because a handful of aggressive South Florida law firms — most in Miami-Dade County — have targeted the insurance giant with water-damage claims in a hurricane-free year.

According to a report the insurer released Monday, while Miami-Dade residents have 19 percent of all Citizens policies in force, the county "accounts for 33 percent of all reported claims and 60 percent of all litigated claims statewide," with the bulk of those claims coming from water-damage losses.

In addition, 84 percent of all claims in the past five years have originated in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, the report said. Ten law firms are responsible for 50 percent of the lawsuits against the company and 60 percent of those suits come from Miami-Dade.

"Claims are increasing because Citizens is a target,'' Barry Gilway, CEO of Citizens, said in an interview last week.

The report serves as a counterpoint to legislators and law firms who have accused the company of using delay tactics as its principal legal strategy in an effort to make the state-run insurer appear to be more profitable.

Those lawyers say Florida policyholders are paying millions in unnecessary legal expenses because of Citizens' practice of refusing to pay many claims without a lawsuit.

"I love it when insurers treat their insureds like they are asking for 'handouts' when they file claims,'' said Ted Corless, a Tampa attorney who won a $15 million judgment against Citizens last week. "If they get claims that are owed, pay them, and you won't be a target."

The 44-page report, a litigation analysis, found that Citizens spent $64 million in defense fees in 2012 and has already spent $46 million on defense lawyers and fees this year.

By contrast, the company spent at least $16 million between January 2011 and June 2013 on legal fees paid out to plaintiffs' lawyers — those representing policyholders who won their cases, according to a public records request of the company.

The report does not say how much the company could have saved had it paid its claims rather than waiting until it was sued. It also does not analyze how many lawsuits are pending and what the potential cost of those claims, plus legal costs, might be.

Report: In two years, Citizens spent $100M on legal fees 10/14/13 [Last modified: Monday, October 14, 2013 10:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Toys 'R' Us files for bankruptcy but keeps stores open (w/video)


    NEW YORK — Toys 'R' Us, the big box toy retailer struggling with $5 billion in debt and intense online competition, has filed for bankruptcy protection ahead of the key holiday shopping season — and says its stores will remain open for business as usual.

    Shoppers shop in a Toys R Us store on Black Friday in Miami in 2016. Toys R Us, the pioneering big box toy retailer, announced late Monday, Sept. 18, 2017 it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection while continuing with normal business operations. [Associated Press]
  2. Trigaux: Waiting for your next pay raise? Keep dreaming, employers hint

    Working Life

    The economy's bouncing back. The stock market keeps hitting new records. And the jobless rate in Florida may soon drop below 4 percent. Surely, these are robust indicators — key signs that an annual raise is just around the corner. Right?

    Who doesn't want a pay raise? Demonstrators have rallied for years in a number of states for a $15 minimum wage. But many workers across a broad pay range are unlikely to see much if any raises this year, a new survey says. [AP Photo/Seth Wenig]
  3. Florida Guard scales down troop strength; Navy sails away from the Keys

    State Roundup

    The Florida National Guard on Monday drew down its activated statewide forces to about 1,200 on-duty troops, mostly in operations focused on relief distribution in the Florida Keys — and the last of a mini-armada of U.S. Navy ships off Key West set sail for home.

    Soldiers from the Florida National Guard's Delta Company, 1st Battallion, 124th Infantry, 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team on Sept. 14. The Federal Emergency Managment Agency has reported that 25-percent of all homes in the Florida Keys were destroyed and 65-percent sustained major damage when they took a direct hit from Hurricane Irma.  [Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images]
  4. LOCALE Market hosting St. Pete job fair for hospitality positions


    ST. PETERSBURG — Locale Market / FarmTable Kitchen is hosting a hospitality job fair Tuesday in St. Petersburg. The event will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the LOCALE Market at 179 2nd Ave. North, St. Petersburg. Organizers said they hope to hire about 20 workers with a focus on displaced workers from Hurricane …

    Locale Market is hosting job fair on Tues., Feb. 19. [LARA CERRI | Times] 

  5. So far, 335,000 Irma claims totalling $1.95 billion filed in Florida


    Times Staff Writer

    As of Sunday afternoon, insurers had received a total of 335,347 claims statewide for insured damage totalling $1.95 billion caused by Hurricane Irma, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation reported Monday based on preliminary figures.

    This shows a damaged mobile home inside Clover Leaf Farms RV Park in Brooksville. So far, insurers have received a total of 335,347 claims statewide for insured damage totalling $1.95 billion caused by Hurricane Irma.
[MEGAN REEVES   |   Times]