Recently we have been faced with a carousel of new arguments from Citizens on sinkhole claims. In one large case we had in Pasco, a judge had the opportunity to hear nearly all of these arguments in one case and rule on the issues. None of the issues went Citizens way. One of the issues that often comes up in these types of cases of cases is what we call forcing repair. Many of the carriers take a hard stance that they should only pay out money if repairs are actually done. While in theory this is probably the correct statement, legally it can take several twists and turns. Our side has made the argument for years that if you, the insurance company, breach the contract (i.e. break the promises you made) with your clients, you don’t get the opportunity to then point the finger back at the homeowner as if they are holding the process up. In what other world could someone sign a contract, have the other disregard the contract and breach it and then after they realized they breached try to force you to uphold your end of the bargain. I compare it to a simple contract to buy a car. You promise me $10,000 to buy my car but only if it is running in good shape. Well then I show up with my car and it wont start. How could I look at you and say where’s my $10,000? I couldn’t and the judge in this case ruled that neither could Citizens.
One of the other main arguments we face from Citizens these days is they really seem to complain a lot when you sue them without giving them the chance to correct their mistake. I call this the mulligan defense. Essentially Citizens wants to place itself in a position where whatever investigation it does and whatever conclusions it comes up with, it always gets a second chance. The problem with the second chance argument, besides the fact there is no law or part of the contract that supports it, is that Citizens places the burden on the homeowners to prove to Citizens it should take a second look. Isn’t it the insurance companies job to perform a thorough and accurate investigation. If taking a second look is such a big deal, why does Citizens not do that itself on all claims? Do it for the homeowner and maybe Citizens would catch the obvious mistakes. But, no, Citizens blindly issues reports denying claims and then waits for the homeowner to prove them wrong. Then if the homeowner doesn’t give them the mulligan before suing them, they paint the homeowner to be a crook. Well this Pasco judge did not see it that way. Summarizing: Just because the homeowner did not give you a report from a second expert showing you there was a sinkhole at their house, does not mean that there was not a sinkhole at their house. At the end of the day, this is what trial is for, resoling differences of opinions.