DAVIE — About 100
people attended a hearing Tuesday held by the task
force reviewing Citizens Property Insurance Corp.'s
remaining claims from the hurricanes of 2004 and
2005, many of them angrily pleading for help.
Some of them agreed
to settlements on the spot and were promised checks
would soon be in the mail, as Citizens
representatives were present and authorized to close
But most of them had
to settle for the satisfaction of venting and
hearing words of reassurance that cases will be
The chairman of the
task force investigating Citizens' claim-handling
practices listened patiently as the meeting extended
past its scheduled closing time.
While Bob Milligan
stopped short of any promises, he said he was
determined to help resolve as many of the remaining
3,500 hurricane claims as possible.
But Milligan, who
also serves as the state's insurance consumer
advocate, provided some details about what might be
in the task force's report scheduled for release
He said that Citizens
will be given 90 days to resolve the open claims.
After that, it will
be required to provide detailed specifics on each
case as to why it remains open.
Milligan said the
task force report also will give Citizens 30 days to
provide details about the training programs for its
The state's largest
insurer has contracts with 45 adjusting firms
representing 6,000 adjusters that would come to
Florida if needed during 2007.
He wants to ensure
the mostly out-of-state contract adjusters can do
their jobs properly if called to Florida to handle
have said many of their adjusters were trained on
the fly in Florida to deal with the catastrophes,
although they don't admit that led to inadequate
But the quality of
those adjustments was the number one topic at the
hearing, held at Nova Southeastern University in
In attendance were
policyholders, lawyers and public adjusters who
represented policyholders in their claims.
Catherine Craig of
Jupiter said her house was severely damaged by
hurricanes Jeanne in 2004 and Wilma in 2005, but
Citizens has paid just $70,000 of the $475,000 she
said she is owed.
Craig, a mortgage
broker, said she has spent every dollar she has made
the past three years on repairs to her house, which
have not been reimbursed.
remediation, the new air conditioning, the drywall,
electrical plumbing - all paid out of my pocket
because Citizens has denied, denied and delayed,
delayed,'' she said.
Another theme that
was echoed at Tuesday's meeting was that Citizens
had refused to negotiate in good faith over disputed
claims at state-sanctioned mediation hearings.
The mediation is
designed to resolve disputes over the amount of
damages, but policyholders and their lawyers said
Citizens claims personnel would refuse to negotiate.
Those charges were
confirmed by Mark Pritchett, executive vice
president of the Collins Center, which runs the
He said he was
concerned Citizens claims personnel were being told
by superiors not to resolve disputes at the
denied that they refused to settle valid complaints.
Top Citizens claims
personnel who attended Tuesday's meeting did resolve
some outstanding hurricane claims on the spot,
including the claim of West Palm Beach resident
The engineer said
Citizens last year had refused to pay more than
$8,500 to replace the aluminum siding of his house,
which was damaged during Hurricane Wilma.
Stout spent $15,000
on the renovation.
After he voiced his
complaint to the task force, Citizens personnel took
him aside and upped their offer to $12,500. Stout
said he felt the new offer was fair.
President Suzanne Murphy, who attended Tuesday's
meeting, said Citizens has had valid reasons for
denying some of the 3,500 open claims, but could not
disclose them because of confidentiality issues.
But she agreed the
state-sponsored insurer, which has some 1.3 million
policyholders, had botched some claims and needed to
"We will win back the
respect and trust of our policyholders,'' she said.