A lawsuit from Restoration of Florida has accused Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier of acting in concert with the insurance companies he regulates to unconstitutionally approve an insurance company’s forms that allow arbitration but not a lawsuit to resolve controversies. I wrote about this new policy form in Will Arbitration Be the New Appraisal? https://www.propertyinsurancecoveragelaw.com/2022/05/articles/insurance/will-arbitration-be-the-new-appraisal/.
While the lawsuit is attached, some of the allegations are:
“1. American Integrity and Heritage illegally removed the legal rights and remedies of Florida homeowners and their transferors over property insurance claims and used the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation to unconstitutionally approve ill-considered changes to their policies. he said that the Office of Insurance Regulation can help where the legislature fails ̵1; a rather mystifying statement that ignores traditional notions of power-sharing in our system of state government.
- It’s no secret that non-life insurance claims are common in Florida due to hurricanes, floods and other storm-related events. Homeowners rely on their insurance companies and the insurance policies purchased as lifeguards after problems arise, and certainly after disasters. Still, the goal of the insurance company’s defendants here is to mount as many barriers as possible for homeowners to receive the proceeds of their insurance for legal claims while reaping the fruits of insurance premiums paid by Floridians. Lawsuits are inevitably filed by homeowners against their insurance companies when insurance companies delay paying claims, underpay receivables or do not pay them at all.
- In this case, the policy changes deny (i) statutory rights adopted by the Legislative Assembly; (ii) the ability of Florida citizens to use the services of necessary and required contractors of their choice to repair property damage; (iii) justice in court through a jury trial; and (iv) the right to recover attorney’s fees after winning against the insurance company’s defendant in a lawsuit.
- By replacing statutory provisions intended to protect policyholders, Commissioner Altmaier has delegated powers to himself which rest with the legislator. In accordance with the constitutional division of power which divides the Land Government into legislative, executive and judicial branches, “[n]o a person belonging to a branch shall exercise all powers belonging to any of the other branches unless expressly stated here. “CONST. II, § 3, FLA. ART.
- The result of this ultra vires exercise of authority will cost policyholders more money to enforce insurance policies for which they have paid premiums, demand that they waive their right to a jury trial that is guaranteed to “violate” the Florida Constitution, and incur costs to upholding rights declared by the Florida Legislature must be paid by the insurance company’s defendants. “
The right to a jury trial is fundamental to American democracy. Governments, as well as dictators, certainly have a different view of “power to the people” and generally enact dictates and laws to abolish these rights. That’s what this trial is about.
If it will win is anyone’s guess. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to get the Florida Legislature to pass an arbitration law that applies to first-party insurance contracts. It seems fundamentally unfair to allow clauses that would cause the arbitration in a remote location to apply the insurance laws of another state.
“We operate under a jury system in this country, and as much as we complain about it, we have to admit that we know of no better system, other than possibly hitting a coin.”
Restoration Assoc. by Fla. V. Altmaier