Class-action Suit Filed in Florida against Insurance Deadline

May 2, 2008

Property owners in Florida who had policies with the now-bankrupt Poe Financial Group did not receive sufficient notice of a June deadline to dispute claims in court, lawyers argued April 30 after filing a class-action lawsuit.

The suit names Florida Insurance Guaranty Association, a backup fund that temporarily handles policies for insolvent companies, and requests a one-year extension of the deadline.

People typically have five years to file and settle claims for hurricane damage, said Alan Garfinkel, whose firm filed the suit in Palm Beach County, Fla. on behalf of a Wellington couple whose house was damaged by Hurricane Wilma in 2005. But because Poe Financial Group became defunct in 2006, people had one year to file a claim and one year to file a lawsuit for any disputes.

“My beef is, gosh, you just have to give notice for when the steps of the courthouse have closed,” said Garfinkel.

He showed a letter from the association addressed to the Wellington couple, Richard and Judith Palma, that was incomplete, showing a blank line in the place where the deadline date was supposed to be noted.

The association’s deputy director Michelle Lovern agreed the form letter did fail to note the deadline, but she said the company’s records show the pages attached to it did mention the date.

The law surrounding claims for insolvent companies has been on the books for 37 years, Lovern noted.

“It’s not like it’s brand new,” she said. “Most businesses aren’t required to tell people the law over and over.”

Lovern also noted the association has handled 48,000 claims for Poe customers since its insolvency – 20,000 who had claims on file and another 28,000 who filed claims or reopened existing claims after the company went bankrupt.

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