2022 Litigation Reform & Consumer Protections

2022 has seen an accelerating contraction of Florida’s property insurance market that Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier describes as “dire.”  Homeowners are suffering big rate increases and some have lost their coverage, while a growing number of insurance companies are insolvent or reducing or eliminating their policy-writing in the state.  The chief culprit: excessive and often frivolous litigation, driven by questionable roof claims.  According to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, Florida has 9% of the nation’s homeowners insurance claims yet 79% of the nation’s homeowners insurance lawsuits.     L

Unscrupulous roofing contractors with their offers of “free roofs” are driving up the costs of homeowners insurance in Florida

Although the 2021 Litigation & Solicitation reforms took effect on July 1, 2021, they were immediately challenged in court by the roofing and restoration industry and the laws remain unenforced as a result.  The 2022 Florida Legislature in its regular session considered additional reforms, but failed to pass any bills.  Read the Final Regular Session 2022 Florida Legislature Bill Watch.

The Legislature reconvened in a special session in May 2022 and passed a series of additional comprehensive reforms.  These include making reinsurance more available to insurance companies to ease higher homeowners premiums, greater transparency in roofing solicitations together with a separate roof deductible, and a series of litigation reforms.  Litigation reforms build in part on 2019 Assignment of Benefits (AOB) reform and include eliminating legal fees to assignees in AOB contracts between contractors and homeowners, ending attorney fee multipliers except in rare cases, limiting bad faith awards, and allowing insurance companies to recoup their attorney fees when lawsuits are dismissed for failure to provide proper notice.  Read the Final Special Session 2022 Florida Legislature Bill Watch.  Roofing interests immediately filed a new round of court challenges.   

Lisa with Rep. Spencer Roach during the 2022 special session

Yet, more insurance companies face financial rating downgrades and potential insolvency.  And more homeowners face double-digit rate hikes, special assessments by insolvent companies, and the risk of further assessments across all insurance lines by the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corporation.

Lisa Miller & Associates has worked tirelessly with industry and consumer interests, including educating the news media on Florida’s property insurance dilemma.  Our team is watching those who specialize in taking advantage of Floridians and driving higher rates, as they strategize on ways to work around the new 2022 law.   

 

 

Door-to-door solicitor Jairo Adolfo Rivera of Adjusting Experts in Miami arrested in April 2022 on six counts of Impersonation of a Public Adjuster without a License and connected with The Strems Law Firm. Click here for his story

Brian Webb and Brandon Jourdan, co-owners of a Fort Myers roofing and construction firm arrested in March 2022 on insurance fraud for allegedly running a homeowner solicitation scheme offering free roof replacements in lieu of paying the insurance policy deductible. Click here for their story

 

 

“In Florida, contractor fraud is one element contributing to increasing premiums, insurer insolvency, and consumers scrambling under deadlines to find an insurer to meet mortgage lender requirements.  In some instances, homeowners in Florida are signing with non-admitted insurers.”  National Insurance Crime Bureau report

 

A typical “Free Roof” advertisement on social media

Consumer Alert from Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate “These schemes are real and are happening more frequently” – Tasha Carter, Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate

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Plaintiff attorney John Morgan agrees with Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis that Assignment of Benefits (AOB) contracts between contractors and homeowners should be prohibited in this May 20, 2022 tweet

 

 

“For the second month in a row, Assignment of Benefits (AOB) lawsuits make up more than 30% of new litigation and have been on the rise steadily from the low 17% to 20% figures that were registered in the first six months of 2021,” according to CaseGlide in February 2022

 

“While the two bills passed in the 2022 special session had many positives, more comprehensive measures were needed to address the root cause of our property insurance dilemma in Florida: excessive litigation, driven by widespread fraud, especially roofing scams.” Lisa Miller

 

“We had as high as $34 million a year in claims coming from this group with 600 claims a year.” Citizens President & CEO Barry Gilway on a $1 million settlement paid by Scot Strems and his Strems Law Firm along with co-defendants Contender Claims Consultants and All Insurance Restoration Services. Click here for his story

 

Property insurance lawsuits in Florida have increased 363% in the past nine years  (Click map for printable version)

 

“Of the $15 billion spent on litigated claims since 2015, only 8% was paid to policyholders.  Plaintiff attorneys got 71% with the remaining 21% spent by insurance companies on defense attorneys.  Runaway litigation costs over roof claims and other damage are threatening the stability of not only Florida’s insurance market, but also its real estate marketplace.”  Guy Fraker, author of Florida’s P&C Insurance Market is Spiraling Toward Collapse, February 2021.

 

“We need a system where an insured – they have a claim, that they have a dispute, and they sue – they get a payment.  But the payment should not result in attorney fees that are many, many, many multiples of the payment to the insured.  It’s not unusual for someone with a $20,000 or $30,000 dispute to have their attorney get $100,000 or $200,000.  There needs to be a link between what an insured receives and a legal payment.”  Roger Desjadon, retired CEO, Florida Peninsula Insurance

 

 

“Meaningful legislative reform must move Florida toward being 9%, not 79%, of the country’s litigated HO claims.”  Joe Petrelli, President, Demotech

 

 

Source: Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, from its July 1, 2022 Property Insurance Stability Report. (Click to enlarge above chart)

 

“Floridians are seeing homeowners’ insurance become costlier and scarcer because for years the state has been the home of too much litigation and too many fraudulent roof-replacement schemes.”  Insurance Information Institute Issues Brief, August 2022

 

Lisa Miller hosts The Florida Insurance Roundup podcast, regularly featuring the latest developments in insurance defense and helping consumers by raising awareness of various claims fraud and abuse so they don’t fall prey to the litigation explosion.

Listen to New Property Insurance Reforms podcast (June 2022)

Listen to Special Session on Property Insurance podcast (May 2022)

 

(You can listen to previous podcasts here)

 

Lisa being interviewed by the news media at the Capitol during the May 2022 Special Session

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Media Coverage of LMA Efforts on Litigation Reform & Consumer Protections

  • Insurance industry lobbyist Lisa Miller, a former deputy Florida insurance commissioner, said at the webinar Thursday that the key to reducing fraudulent or exaggerated roof claims, or efforts by roofers to cover the deductible, is strict enforcement of the law. She urged state regulators to contact RoofClaim.com and let the company know that its actions will be scrutinized.  RoofClaim.com Fires Up Florida Insurers with Roof Financing Plan, Insurance Journal, June 3, 2022
  • Lisa Miller, Florida’s former deputy insurance commissioner and now a private insurance consultant, suggested insurers access state reserves in the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund. She described the CAT fund’s function to that of an accordion, meaning it should expand and contract with the market. Bills Don’t Fix Florida’s Insurance Crisis, Panel Told, Law360, June 2, 2022
  • A former deputy Florida insurance commissioner, Lisa Miller, now a lobbyist and consultant, said in a conference call Thursday that Grieco’s labels were offensive. The RAP fund is more of a bailout for consumers and will result in some savings, she said. Florida Legislature Wraps Early with Insurance Fund, Roof and Condo Bills, Insurance Journal, May 26, 2022
  • Lisa Miller of Lisa Miller & Associates says widespread fraud including roofing scams and the resulting litigation are to blame. She says these lawsuits drive up the cost of insurance premiums for everyone. “The insurance commissioner testified that Florida has only 8 percent of all property insurance claims in the country, yet Florida has almost 80 percent of all the litigation in the entire country.” Nothing in life is free: roofing scams drive up property insurance rates in Florida, WMFE-FM Orlando, May 23, 2022
  • “What Florida lawmakers failed to legislate this past session in property insurance, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) is now accomplishing to some degree by regulation in encouraging ways,” Lisa Miller, an insurance industry lobbyist, said in her April 11 newsletterIf you can’t legislate, regulate: Altmaier enacted property insurance policies lawmakers didn’t OK, Orlando Sentinel, May 23, 2022

 

Special Session TV Coverage & Videos of Florida’s Property Insurance Dilemma    
Title Date Source
Former Deputy Insurance Commissioner Lisa Miller on need for stronger insurance consumer protection in atmosphere of bigger rate increases and growing fraud and litigation during testimony before the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation 12-17-19 The Florida Channel
Roofing contractor Lee Haight’s “No Roof Left Behind” campaign solicitation pitch on social media 5-12-20 Facebook
Roofing contractor Lee Haight's $500 gift card offer for free roof inspection on social media 7-7-20 Facebook
Richie Kidwell of Restoration Assoc. of Florida advises roofers to change tactics after passage of 2021's SB 76 reform 4-9-21 Roofers Den podcast
Richie Kidwell of Restoration Assoc. of Florida explains how to game the new 2019 AOB law, HB 7065 4-9-21 Roofers Den podcast
Victim interviews from prosecuted alleged insurance fraud involving Express Restoration, Quick Mold Labs, and the Strems Law firm   (Also, see “Unlicensed Adjuster Busted – The Strems Law Firm connection”) 9-17-21 Security First Insurance Company
Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier says Florida’s property insurance market is in “dire” and “critical” condition in testimony before the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee 9-22-21 The Florida Channel
Florida Insurance Consumer Advocate Tasha Carter says consumers are on life support in testimony before the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee 9-22-21 The Florida Channel
Citizens Property Insurance Corporation President & CEO Barry Gilway describes the “sea of red ink” that Florida’s insurance companies are in during testimony before the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee 10-13-21 The Florida Channel
Colonel Simon Blank, Director of the Department of Financial Services (DFS) Division of Investigative & Forensic Services, reports that of the 1,786 homeowners insurance fraud referrals last year, 14 resulted in convictions, in testimony before the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee 10-20-21 The Florida Channel
House Speaker Chris Sprowls on prospects for Property Insurance Reform 3-2-22 The Florida Channel
Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier explains to media why roof claims have become just the latest driver of high homeowners premiums in a decades-long insurance litigation problem 3-29-22 The Florida Channel
Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier tells the media the reinsurance community basically paid for Hurricane Irma three times due to excessive claims litigation – costs passed along to insurance companies & policyholders 3-29-22 The Florida Channel
Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier tells media past reforms (SB 76 & HB 7065) haven’t eliminated the problem of excessive litigation, frustrating homeowners 3-29-22 The Florida Channel
Homeowners insurance crisis: Florida insurance commissioner moves to allow roof deductibles 4-5-22 WFLA-TV
Florida homeowners insurance crisis: Tampa Bay senator plans to go around governor to call special legislative session 4-6-22 WFLA-TV
80K lawsuits filed against insurance companies in 2020, doubling homeowners insurance premiums, because scammers are gaming the system 4-14-22 WFTS-TV
Property insurance crisis escalates, with more insurance companies going under, cancelled policies, and doubling premiums 4-21-22 WKMG-TV
A closer look at Florida’s property insurance crisis includes suggestions to allow actual cash value instead of full roof replacements and controls on excessive litigation 4-27-22 WJXT-TV
Insurance defense attorney slams Florida’s ‘egregious’ homeowners insurance system 4-29-22 WFLA-TV
WBUR-FM, Boston’s National Public Radio affiliate, goes “Inside Florida's property insurance crisis” with a resident, insurance agent, state legislator, and industry representative 5-3-22 WBUR-FM
Property insurance companies continue to drop Florida customers while others are going out of business 5-9-22 WFTS-TV
Florida roofing company encourages homeowner to make insurance claim for storm damage in series of questionable text messages and insurance company executive responds 5-11-22 WFTS-TV
Citizens Insurance settles the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) suit against attorney Scot Strems & contractors yet no criminal charges says CFO Jimmy Patronis 5-12-22 WFLA-TV
Citizens Property Insurance CEO Barry Gilway explains RICO lawsuit against attorney Scot Strems & associated contractors 5-12-22 WTVT-TV
CFO Jimmy Patronis on Citizens Insurance RICO settlement with attorney Scot Strems & associated contractors and his legislative initiatives for the May 23, 2022 special session 5-12-22 Florida Department of Financial Services
Property insurance fraud is driving up rates. So why did Florida convict just 14 in one year? 5-13-22 WFLA-TV
State Rep. Tom Fabricio (R-Miramar) discusses the current problems and potential solutions in Florida’s property insurance marketplace on “NBC Impact” 5-15-22 WTVJ-TV
Governor DeSantis says there’s a framework for “really significant reforms” in the upcoming special session and “failing is not an option.” 5-16-22 The Florida Channel
Florida Office of Insurance Regulation actuary Kayne Smith expresses alarm at loss trends for an insurance company seeking a 22.9% rate increase at a public hearing. 5-17-22 The Florida Channel
First Floridian Insurance Company VP Robert Aaron testifying at rate hearing that although number of AOBs are down, litigation remains steady, due to public adjusters and plaintiff attorneys working around AOB reform law. 5-17-22 The Florida Channel
FedNat Insurance drops 68,200 policies as Governor DeSantis says upcoming special session should bring “significant reforms” 5-17-22 WFLA-TV
Powerful forces aligned against major property insurance reform in upcoming special session of Florida Legislature 5-18-22 WFLA-TV
Nothing in life is free: roofing scams drive up property insurance rates in Florida 5-23-22

WMFE-FM

Comprehensive look at Florida’s homeowners insurance problem and residents reacting to special legislative session 5-23-22 WFTS-TV
Florida lawmakers race against time to combat the property insurance crisis that’s impacting homeowners and now the real estate market: 'Don’t blame the insurance companies, blame the lawyers' 5-23-22 WFTS-TV
Property Insurance Reform Bill Signed by Florida Gov. DeSantis that some say doesn’t go far enough 5-26-22 WTVJ-TV
South Florida homeowners need new property insurance changes to kick in to deal with surging rates 5-26-22 WFOR-TV
Despite the Florida Legislature passing property insurance reform package is a prediction of continued insurance company failures, dropped policies, and rate increases. 5-26-22 WFLA-TV

 

“Thank you for continuing to fight the good fight, Lisa! We all need to do more to combat the rampant fraud in our state.” Chad LaTour, Vice President of Sales, PEAK6 InsurTech

 

Other Lisa Miller & Associates (LMA) Produced Products & Resources

(You can find previous LMA Products & Resources on the 2019 AOB Reform webpage)

“History of Florida’s Property Insurance Market by Locke Burt, May 2015”: