Thursday, February 24, 2005

Un-sweet 'Charity'

"You get to the question of, are you running a charity or are you operating a business."-- Ed London, board member of Citizens Property Insurance, (February 23, 2005).
Ed London, a real estate broker from Miami-Dade County, made those deeply offensive remarks the other day while defending the lawsuit Citizens Property Insurance filed against a Perdido Key couple. The lawsuit filed by the company manifestly is a last-ditch effort to avoid the law as laid down by the Fourth District Court of Appeals in Mierzwa v. Florida Windstorm Insurance.

As Paige St. John explained last week, under the Mierzwa case, Citizens based its premiums on, and therefore is required to pay, declared policy limits pursuant to the Florida "value policy" law if an insured's dwelling is so badly damaged by a combination of hurricane winds and water that it must be torn down to satisfy local ordinances. Those same local ordinances, incidentally, require raising ground-based dwellings above the flood zone once they are more than 50% damaged -- all in an effort to limit future insured losses.

Citizens lost a subtantially identical attempt to evade its responsibilities last summer in the Fourth District Court of Appeals. Unhappy with losing the case, which involved a post-Andrew hurricane claim, the state-owned insurance company is now shopping around for some judge --any judge -- who will come to a different decision in the wake of Hurricane Ivan. (Believe it or not, in the Perdido Key case, Citizens is challenging the first judge assigned to the case because she has a relative whose home suffered hurricane damage. As who in Northwest Florida does not?)

Mr. London has some nerve asserting that premium-paying customers of Citizens are seeking "charity." The customers he and other Citizens board members have sued are asking only for what they paid high premiums for -- and what a Florida court has said they are entitled to under the law and the very terms of the insurance policy Citizens itself drafted.

Expecting what you've paid for is not 'charity." Implying that Citizens' customers are looking for "charity" is no way to run a business, either.

When Citizens board members like Mr. London engage in that kind of name-calling, it only adds to the mounting evidence that the state-owned insurance company is willfully engaging in a "bad faith" refusal to settle legitimate claims.

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