Judge Dismisses Suit Against Florida Insurance Chief

By BILL KACZOR | August 11, 2011

A federal judge Thursday threw out a lawsuit against Florida’s insurance commissioner even though the official had opposed dismissing the case.

Kevin McCarty argued that keeping the litigation alive would have given him the opportunity to clear his name against the lawsuit’s claim that he violated the constitutional rights of a Texas insurer and its owner by trying to keep the company from doing business in Florida.

The suit also accused McCarty of having “a deep hunger for revenge” against the plaintiffs and defaming them by labeling the company `”untrustworthy” and “incompetent” in public documents.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled that giving McCarty, who denied the allegations, a chance to “win the media war is a poor reason to prolong a lawsuit.”

Hinkle granted a motion by Dallas National Insurance Co. and owner Charles David Wood Jr. to voluntarily dismiss their suit without prejudice. That means they can file it again in the future. The dismissal, though, also allows McCarty to seek payment of his legal expenses from the plaintiffs.

“Whatever one might say about the legal formalities, it seems likely that in the world of public opinion – or in the media – when a case is dismissed, it means the defendant won,” Hinkle wrote.

McCarty’s office issued a statement expressing agreement with that statement.

A lawyer for Dallas National did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.

Hinkle also rejected McCarty’s argument that dismissing without prejudice would deprive him of an opportunity to pursue a malicious prosecution claim against the plaintiffs. The judge wrote that facilitating the ability to file yet another lawsuit also is no reason to prolong the litigation.

The suit alleged McCarty was trying to settle a score because Wood had loaned $5 million to Bankers Insurance Co. after Bankers conducted an illegal investigation focusing on McCarty’s suspected “romantic relationship with other men” in the 1990s.

The investigation included tapping McCarty’s phone and hiring a private investigator in hopes of getting him fired as an industry coordinator with the Office of Insurance Regulation, which he now heads.

McCarty sued and Bankers settled for $2.55 million in 2000.

Wood and Dallas National sued McCarty in January just days before Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal heard an appeal of his refusal to give the company a license to write workers compensation insurance in Florida. The appellate court subsequently affirmed McCarty’s decision.

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