News and Items of Interest
August 7, 2009, San Diego, CA
Ron Reitz of Quality Claims Management Selected to Speak about Vacancy and Occupancy Clauses in Insurance Policies and How They Affect Coverage at the Inaugural First Party Claims Conference
Provides expertise regarding the latest issues and challenges relating to insurance for foreclosed and vacant properties
Ron Reitz, President of Quality Claims Management Corp. has been selected to participate as a panelist at the First Party Claims Conference (FPCC) in Providence, Rhode Island on October 26, 2009.
Ron Reitz will be speaking about "Vacancy and Occupancy Defenses - Its Many Faces" regarding the impact of the mortgage crisis, foreclosures and vacancy issues as they relate to insurance claims. He will be discussing current and emerging issues around this subject.
Sponsored by NAPIA, the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters, the First Party Claims Conference is designed to explore significant issues for first party claims insurance professionals.
"The mortgage crisis and the associated rise in foreclosures and vacant properties provide a challenge for the mortgage, banking and insurance industries," says Mr. Reitz. "When homeowners abandon their houses and condos, who is legally responsible for damage and claims?" Mr. Reitz will spotlight real world case studies that point out the complexity of this issue.
More about First Party Claims Conference
Open to the broader insurance community (adjusters, brokers, agents, attorneys, accountants and others), the First Party Claims Conference is an excellent resource for practical tools and answers to a variety of insurance related matters. Information on the education program (topics & speakers), exhibitor/sponsor opportunities, conference registration and hotel accommodations is available at www.firstpartyclaims.com.
February 3, 2009, San Diego, CA
Ron Reitz of Quality Claims Management Selected to Speak about Insurance and Law Issues at the 30th Annual CAI's Community Association Law Seminar.
On Feb 3, Ron Reitz, President of Quality Claims Management Corp. participated as a panelist at the "Insurance Masters Program" regarding current and emerging insurance issues that are of interest to those in the community association law field.
"Anyone who owns a condo – whether it is a residential or business condo, is at some level involved with their Community Association (HOA) or Unit Owner’s Association," said Mr. Reitz. "When people suffer damage to their units, it becomes a very complex claim since you are likely to deal with the individual unit owner, the surrounding unit owners and the association. Depending on the extent of the damage, it is likely to spread to the common areas in addition to the individual units, making these very complex claims".
CAI's Annual Community Association Law Seminar provides a unique learning opportunity to discuss emerging trends and legislative issues important to the practice of community association law. This program is developed each year by CAI’s College of Community Association Lawyers (CCAL) as part of its commitment to advancing the knowledge and practice of community association law. The program is dedicated to helping legal professionals be better prepared to deal with the pressing issues facing condominium and homeowner associations today.
June 26, 2008
Mercury Insurance To Pay $250,000 in California Claims Handling Settlement.
California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner announced that Mercury Insurance Group will pay a $250,000 settlement for alleged claims handling violations.
"I'm pleased that Mercury has agreed to this settlement, which demonstrates that claims handling violations will not be tolerated in California," Poizner said. Mercury recently announced that it is reducing rates for policyholders, and I am hopeful that the company will continue to put its customers first. The Department of Insurance continues to make sure that all insurance companies are obeying the laws in place to protect consumers."
The California Department of Insurance (CDI) conducted a review of consumer complaints filed with the Department against Mercury Insurance, Mercury Casualty and California Automobile Insurance Companies, collectively known as Mercury Insurance Group. Of the 121 files reviewed, a total of 258 violations were discovered to have occurred from January 2004 through December 2005. The violations involved several of the company's claims-handling practices, including unreasonable delays in affirming or denying coverage and issuing claim payments.
Mercury Insurance Group will pay the DOI $250,000 in monetary penalties, as well as $50,000 for CDI's legal fees and enforcement costs associated with the case. Additionally, if Mercury Insurance does not improve its performance standards -- as evidenced by a 15 percent reduction in justified complaints -- by Dec. 31, 2008, it may be ordered to pay an additional $200,000, the DOI said.
For more information, visit http://www.insurance.ca.gov/0400-news/0100-press-releases/0070-2008/upload/MercurycasesStipWaiver.pdf and http://www.insurance.ca.gov/0400-news/0100-press-releases/0070-2008/upload/MercurycasesStipWaiver.pdf.
For Release: April 28, 2008
Insurance Commissioner Poizner Protects Residents' Options to Replace Their Homes After a Disaster.
Legal Opinion Puts Insurance Industry on Notice That Disaster Survivors Can Buy or Rebuild Homes in New Locations.
SAN DIEGO ― Today Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner announced that the California Department of Insurance (CDI) has issued a legal opinion supporting homeowners' rights to purchase an already built home at a new location using replacement cost insurance coverage and to replace a home in a new location using an extended or guaranteed replacement cost policy.
The legal opinion, formally issued at the request of San Diego Councilmember Brian Maienschein, clarifies current California law and serves as notice to insurers that CDI expects homeowners' rights to be honored.
"Homeowners should know they have legally protected options when putting their lives back together during a very difficult and taxing time," stated Commissioner Poizner. "After a disaster, homeowners have an absolute right to re-establish their lives elsewhere if they so desire - either by rebuilding their homes or buying other homes."
CDI's legal opinion (attached) clarifies the application of California Insurance Code Section 2015.5(c), which was enacted in 2004 by Assembly Bill 2199 (Kehoe), part of the CDI-sponsored Homeowner Bill of Rights born from lessons learned in the 2003 Southern California wildfires.
CDI's response letter, an official document that communicates CDI's position but does not constitute an agency guideline, order, or rule, clarifies that:
- Homeowners can use their replacement cost insurance coverage to purchase an already built home at a new location; and
- Homeowners are entitled to the "extended" or "guaranteed" portion of their replacement cost policies to rebuild in a new location; and
- Homeowners purchasing a home at a new location for less than the cost to rebuild at the original location may only recover replacement costs reasonably paid to replace the damaged property.
This legal opinion is another step in CDI's efforts to protect the interests of wildfire survivors. Thus far, CDI has assisted in recovering more than $4.3 million on behalf of Southern Californians trying to rebuild after the 2007 firestorms. CDI staff was part of the initial disaster response, protecting property in the fire zones and staffing disaster assistance centers. CDI staff has hosted or participated in approximately two dozen insurance recovery forums, townhalls and workshops, in addition to counseling more than 150 survivors in one-on-one sessions scheduled with the assistance of consumer advocacy groups.
As of mid-April, CDI has received 154 fire-related complaints from San Diego County; it has received 237 such complaints from Southern California fire survivors. As of late March in Southern California, 39,000 residential and commercial claims have been submitted to the insurance industry. 1,866 claims have been for totally destroyed properties. Insurers have paid-out $1.7 billion so far, and 4,105 claims are pending.
Legal opinion found here.
Posted on May 24, 2007 3:44 PM CST
State Farm to pay $6.8M in Katrina case
CHICAGO (Reuters)—State Farm said Thursday it will pay $6.8 million to resolve a class action lawsuit accusing it of undercompensating more than 12,000 Florida policyholders for damage from hurricanes Katrina and Wilma.
The largest U.S. home and auto insurer said it agreed to the payout after discovering a printing error in the homeowners' policies regarding reimbursement for damaged screen enclosures. It said it didn't learn of the error until it was sued in February 2006.
Bloomington, Ill.-based State Farm said its Florida policies typically call for it to cover the replacement cost of storm-damaged screens, less depreciation.
The policies for the plaintiffs, who live in five Florida counties, were missing the clause concerning depreciation, State Farm said.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs said State Farm had initially agreed only to pay the depreciated replacement cost.
"This was an unfortunate printing error that cost us $6.8 million," State Farm spokesman Phil Supple said. "These policyholders actually received more coverage than they paid for. It was our error, and we're owning up to it."
The settlement was approved by a Broward County court, according to the law firms representing the plaintiffs, Lee & Amtzis P.L. and Kopelman & Blankman P.A.
Hurricanes cost the insurance industry more than $68 billion in 2005, including more than $38 billion of insured losses from Katrina alone.
Justice Has Been Conducting Criminal Probe of Katrina Claims, Court Records Show
GULFPORT, Miss. August 10 (BestWire) — The U.S. Justice Department has disclosed, via a filing in a civil lawsuit, that it has been considering a criminal probe of State Farm and possibly other insurance companies for allegedly shifting Hurricane Katrina damages to the National Flood Insurance Program.
Insurers among the defendants in the civil lawsuit are Allstate Corp., State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., and United Services Automobile Association Insurance Co.
The disclosure came amidst an ongoing whistleblower lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Mississippi. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the defendants by Richard “Dickie&ndquo; Scruggs, an Oxford, Miss., attorney who gained fame handling Big Tobacco lawsuits and who now represents hundreds of Katrina victims in various lawsuits against their insurance companies.
In a July 23 filing in that case, U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton and Assistant Attorney General Peter Keisler, head of the U.S. Justice Department's civil division, said it would be more difficult for federal criminal investigators if lawyers in the civil case were interviewing potential witnesses. As a result, on Aug. 7, U.S. District Judge Robert H. Walker halted civil discovery in the case, and told the Justice Department it has until Jan. 31, 2008, to either intervene in the case or tell the court that it declines to do so.
Spokespersons for Allstate, State Farm, Nationwide, and USAA were not immediately available to comment on the filing.
The lawsuit was brought in April 2006 by two sisters, Cori and Kerri Rigsby, who filed a sealed complaint alleging State Farm doctored engineering reports to support claim denials after Katrina. The two sisters worked for a company contracted by State Farm, and had secretly taken thousands of pages of State Farm claims records and given them to Scruggs and state and federal authorities.
State Farm has denied the allegations contained in the sisters' complaint.
The Aug. 7 ruling stemmed from an earlier request by the Justice Department to keep the case sealed. The Rigsbys moved to lift the seal and make the case public, but the government objected. Keisler and Lampton asked the court to stay civil discovery if it lifted the seal “in order to avoid possible harm to an ongoing federal criminal investigation,&ndquo; according to filings made public on Aug. 7.
The Justice Department was asking the court to leave the seal in place “because the government would like to have additional time to conduct a civil investigation of this matter. Unsealing the case would require the government to make an immediate decision as to whether or not to intervene in this matter, and the government is not adequately prepared to make that election at this time.&ndquo;
Justice Department civil attorneys, Keisler and Lampton wrote, “have largely held back from conducting a civil investigation of this case thus far, out of deference to the ongoing criminal investigation, and so the government's civil investigation is not yet complete.&ndquo;
State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. currently has a Best's Financial Strength Rating of A+ (Superior), USAA has a Financial Strength Rating of A++ (Superior) and Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. has a Financial Strength Raging of A+ (Superior).
In 2006, the top five writers of homeowners multiperil in Mississippi, according to A.M. Best Co. state/line product information based on direct premiums written, were: State Farm Group, with a 31.6% market share; Southern Farm Bureau Group, with 18%; Allstate Insurance Group, with 11.1%; Nationwide Group, with 7.7%; and Farmers Insurance Group, with 6%.
(By Chris Grier, Washington correspondent, BestWeek: Chris.Grier@ambest.com) BN-NJ-08-10-2007 1559 ET #
June 1, 2007
QCMC Principle works 2003 Southern California Wildfires
Ron Reitz and his team worked with homeowners whose homes were destroyed by the catastrophic fires. One client provided the following feedback: “The caring, courteous & professional service we received makes us very grateful. Our hats are off to [this team]. They are all class people. If I were starting a company, no matter what type, I would try and hire them…….as partners.”
– D. Williams
QCMC Migrates clients from GMAC-ResCap
GMAC-ResCap announces their intent to exit the Hazard Insurance Claims business. QCMC is formed the same month and clients and staff migrate from GMAC-ResCap to QCMC.
Katrina Homeowners Assisted
Under the leadership of Ron Reitz, GMAC-ResCap assisted thousands of homeowners affected by hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. Thousands of customers of Homecomings Financial and GMAC Mortgage received hands-on adjusting services and guidance in resolving their hazard insurance claims. Mr. Reitz and his team traveled to Louisiana and Mississippi to meet with borrowers and homeowners in order to provide direct assistance and see the vast destruction first-hand.