Citizens has decided to try to restore its public image and send out “settlement” offers to every one of its insureds with a confirmed sinkhole claim. The offer is three pages long and is clearly a form letter with nothing but the dates and names changed. This “offer” is a joke and here is why.
1) Citizens entitles the letter “confidential settlement proposal to put grout in the ground”. You will notice that no Plaintiff lawyers have discussed these letters because they are confidential. By law in Florida all discussions of any kind concerning settlement or negotiation of a lawsuit are confidential. There can be serious repercussions associated with violating this rule. Citizens blatantly ignored the law of Florida and went straight to the media to tell them what they offered all their insureds. Every insured should speak to their lawyer about moving for sanctions against Citizens for blatantly violating the public trust and laws of this State. I only write this blog post as a response to Citizens going public.
2) Citizens’ letter is clearly nothing more than a public relations move to attempt to restore its reputation. Why would Citizens send out “confidential” letters to all of its clients then immediately turn around and tell the media about what they did? They want the public to know about it. They want a pat on the back. Clearly the attempt here is to make a media push to show the public how Citizens is trying really hard to work out all of these lawsuits they have been criticized for recently. Citizens likely doesn’t even care if anyone takes the “offer”. As long as the general public sees just how great they are, Citizens is happy. It is shameful that an insurance company uses the media to intimidate and manipulate its own clients.
3) This is a demand to surrender. It is neither a “proposal” nor a “settlement”. Citizens guises this letter as some sort of a settlement offer. The term settlement infers that the two people that have a dispute have compromised to work out their differences. Do not be fooled, there is absolutely zero, none, zilch, nil, zippo, nothing in this letter or settlement offer that shows Citizens is willing to compromise anything to help its insureds. This is not a settlement offer, it is an ultimatum to surrender. A demand to give up or else. It is a threat not a compromise. Citizens offers to repair the home. Well that is what Citizens is required to do. But, Citizens only agrees to repair the home the way they want to do it and refuses to consider any other options. In return, the lucky insured who accepts the offer gets the opportunity (in the spirit of compromise of course) to dismiss their lawsuit and pay any legal fees or fees to engineers they hired themselves out of their own pocket. In other words: SURRENDER! In return for your surrender, Citizens will give you….well….lets see….they will give you exactly what they were legally obligated to give you anyways! Nothing more. There is no compromise.
Let me give you an example of this in the real world. You hire a contractor and agree to pay him to build you a deck on the back of your house, one that is sturdy and will last as long as you own the house. That contractor builds you a crappy deck, using cheap wood and duct tape. You see the deck, which clearly is going to collapse the second you walk on it, and argue with him that he needs to use solid materials and build you the deck he promised he would. You argue for years about this deck. Then one day he tells you, ok, lets work this out. I have a great offer, a compromise, one that you cannot refuse. You ready for this? You agree to accept the deck exactly how it is, agree that I was right and agree to not sue me. In return I will…well….do nothing. What a deal!
4) The letter from Citizens is riddled with lies. The first statement that jumps out to me is that Citizens swears that if you undergo a neutral evaluation, they will abide by whatever that neutral evaluator recommends. Really? When did this plan begin? Would like a list of clients of mine that have had neutral evaluators tells Citizens they were wrong only for Citizens to ignore them? Listen to me, Citizens in the past year has rejected more neutral evaluation opinions than it has in the previous 20 years combined. To promise this is insulting when it has not lived up to this promise in the past. Next, if the neutral evaluation takes place and the homeowner prevails on the dispute, Citizens swears it will pay the cost of the homeowners attorney fees. First, this is a fee required by law, not some gesture of good will. Second, Citizens NEVER pays this fee! I have an entire in-box full of letters from Citizens telling me and my clients that it will not pay for this fee and I personally have attended numerous hearings where Citizens has made me go in front of the judge to just get paid this fee. By the way, the fee is only $2,500. Citizens will notoriously spend $5,000 on its own lawyers to fight a $2,500 fee for me. Finally, if you believe that after you grout the house Citizens will listen to your concerns and problems and just take care of them with no fight, you are mistaken. Again, I can provide you with a list of Citizens insureds we represent today that have grouted their house and are still having problems fighting Citizens for remaining insurance benefits. They fight tooth and nail before, during and after you repair your home.
5)Lastly, the letter is a standard form letter which ignores the facts and circumstances of each case. If anything, this letter proves that Citizens refuses to even consider they are ever wrong. How could Citizens make the exact same offer to thousands of people? Only one way, it didn’t look at their claims and assumed every claim was the same. This is typical for Citizens. In fact, we have recently been served with pleadings from Citizens’ lawyers that claims that Citizens has no obligation to even consider any other opinions from any other engineer other than its own. Citizens does not look at cases individually nor does it evaluate what truly is the proper and safe method of repairing a home. It treats every single case as if they were all the same and this letter proves that. If Citizens was so concerned about the public safety, limiting litigation and property fixing homes, why does it say in its own paperwork that it will refuse to consider any other repair plans other than its own?