Sunday, September 23, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Why should Citizens policyholders need their state lawmaker to get claims resolved?

Citizens Property Insurance wisely ended its long-running fight with a Palm Harbor condominium association with a good resolution that finally will allow the homeowners to make needed sinkhole repairs. But the settlement only came about because an influential Pinellas state lawmaker intervened and persuaded Citizens’ CEO to view the property himself. Resolving legitimate claims should not take such extraordinary measures, and property owners should not be bullied by any insurance company, much less one that is state-run.

Owners at Cloverplace Condos first noticed signs of sinkhole activity in 2007. But cracking stucco and depressions in the ground were met with denials from Citizens. The state-run insurer at one time rarely denied sinkhole claims, absorbing a half-billion dollars in sinkhole claims in one year. And in some of those cases, the property owners just took the money without fixing their homes. In litigating the lawsuit filed by Cloverplace homeowners, Citizens took a firm stand, insisting it would not make payments without a guarantee of repairs.

That’s a reasonable stance that was carried to an unreasonable extreme. First, Citizens denied the claims based on a law passed after Cloverdale’s insurance policy took effect. Then Citizens counter-sued, a rare and hostile move by an insurance company to take its own customers to court. The company first filed the case in St. Petersburg, then dropped it and re-filed in Clearwater, prompting a circuit judge to accuse the insurer of "judge shopping." And when the case went to trial in March and a jury sided with the condo owners, awarding them $12.7 million, Citizens immediately announced it would appeal — wasting even more taxpayer money and further prolonging the Cloverplace plaintiffs’ misery.

Credit Rep. Chris Sprowls, who represents Palm Harbor and is expected to become House speaker in 2020, for intervening on behalf of his constituents to resolve this debacle. He asked to meet with Citizens CEO Barry Gilway, who then visited Cloverplace himself and saw the real damage. Attorney Ted Corless, who represented the homeowners association, said the settlement came together quickly after that. The total figure wasn’t released, but it includes the $12.7 million verdict, several million more for homes not covered by that award, plus interest and attorneys’ fees. That’s good news for Cloverplace residents, but it amounts to a needlessly expensive resolution that was too long coming.

Citizens’ contention that insurance payouts should always be used to fixed damaged homes is certainly correct, and statutory reforms that helped contain the runaway train of sinkhole claims were good for Florida taxpayers. Still, Citizens’ treatment of Cloverplace owners — its own customers — who just wanted to get their homes fixed was unacceptable. Citizens policyholders should not have to rely on their state legislator to get fair treatment from their insurer.

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Editorial: Florida needs uniform standards for voting by mail

Editorial: Florida needs uniform standards for voting by mail

Vote by mail has been a stunning success in Florida, increasing turnout and making it easy and convenient to cast a ballot with time to research and reflect. But a new study shows that mail ballots cast by African-American, Hispanic or younger voters...
Published: 09/21/18
Editorial: Borrowers need protection from Marlin Financial

Editorial: Borrowers need protection from Marlin Financial

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Published: 09/21/18
Editorial: Putnam hire stinks of patronage, secrecy

Editorial: Putnam hire stinks of patronage, secrecy

In addition to a lesson on political patronage, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam needs a refresher on the particulars of state public records law.In January 2017, Putnam hired the 27-year-old son of a former Publix executive to a high-pay...
Published: 09/20/18
Editorial: Investigate first, then hold Kavanaugh confirmation vote

Editorial: Investigate first, then hold Kavanaugh confirmation vote

There should be a timely investigation of the allegation of sexual assault against Judge Brett Kavanaugh before senators hear from him and his accuser, let alone vote on whether they should confirm his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. The proces...
Published: 09/20/18
Editorial: Immigrants help to make America great

Editorial: Immigrants help to make America great

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Published: 09/19/18
Updated: 09/20/18
Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

The federal Food and Drug Administration is bringing important scrutiny to the increasing use of e-cigarettes, requiring companies that make and sell them to show they are keeping their products away from minors. Vaping is the new front in the nation...
Published: 09/18/18

Tuesday’s letters: Honor Flight restored my faith in America

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Published: 09/17/18
Updated: 09/19/18

Editorial cartoons for Sept. 18

From Times wires
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

The Senate and the nation needs to hear more about the sexual assault allegation against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Setting aside Kavanaugh's judicial record, his political past and the hyper-partisan divide over his nomination, a no...
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

The Tampa City Council has yet to hear a compelling reason to allow a private social club in a residential neighborhood off Bayshore Boulevard, and a final meeting on the matter scheduled for Thursday offers the council a chance to show the diligence...
Published: 09/14/18