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Citizens Hit with $12.7 Million Verdict, and Its President Can’t Handle the Sunshine

 

March 19, 2018

Re: Response to Barry Gilway’s March 16, 2018 Letter to the Editor

Barry Gilway, president/CEO and executive director, of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. (“Citizens”), recently responded to an article published in the Tampa Bay Times concerning the trial between Cloverplace Condominiums Association (“Cloverplace”) and Citizens in which a jury – after a full and fair hearing on the merits – awarded Cloverplace more than $12.7 million.

After Gilway accuses Susan Taylor Martin of the Tampa Bay Times of “mischaracterizing Citizens’ actions,” Gilway blames his company’s innumerable legal problems on legal fees, suggesting that the entire claim would be concluded if only the law firm representing these insureds (Corless Barfield Trial Group) would not demand to be paid. He ends his diatribe with stating that Citizens’ priority is repairs, not fees.

Journalist Susan Taylor Martin, who authored the Tampa Bay Times article dated March 14, 2018, investigated the court’s multiple rulings; examined the jury’s verdict; and interviewed individuals with first-hand knowledge of the case. But Gilway has contempt for this journalist who is just doing her job.

The dispute over the 83 Buildings began when Citizens sued Cloverplace in 2015. Why would Citizens sue its insureds? Because when Citizens purported to adjust the losses that first appeared in 2011, Citizens used a new law created on May 17, 2011, even though the policy in place as of the date the damage first appeared was in April, one month prior. This simple idea is lost on Citizens and Gilway. One cannot retroactively apply a law to a policy that was already in existence. Nonetheless, Citizens wanted to use the new law because it narrowed the coverage for sinkhole claims, and created an entirely new protocol for how to investigate sinkhole claims that would have saved them tons of money.

After examining the facts and the law, the Court found on January 24, 2018 that Citizens breached the contract by deliberately instructing an engineering firm to use the wrong protocol to investigate the damages at Cloverplace, and rejected Citizens’ use of a novel, more narrow definition of terms in the policy they sold. While Gilway says the issue relates to “repairs, not fees,” he contradicts his statements made to the Florida Legislature when they started investigating his mishandling of the Cloverplace claims. The barrier to repairs relates to a definition of an expression in their policy, about “structural damage,” not attorneys’ fees as Gilway says in a letter to then-Senator Jack Latvala:

“It is my hope that the hearing deadline set for August 4, 2017, in Citizens v. Cloverplace, will bring clarity to the key issue in dispute, the definition of ‘structural damage,’” stated Gilway in his letter to Latvala. Gilway also tells Latvala that he “fully understands [his] concern about the length of time it has taken to resolve this case.” At the time of the trial, many of the claims had been pending for more than eight years. If this last statement is true regarding the fact that time matters and repairs are the priority, then Gilway should withdraw his constant threat to appeal the rulings of the Court, including both the findings of the Honorable Judge Pam Campbell and the jury.

Additionally, as noted in the Tampa Bay Times article, Citizens has another trial coming up involving Cloverplace and another 26 buildings, costing the public insurance company more in fees, costs, and interest on money owed for years.

We renew our demand that the Florida Legislature, specifically the Senate and House Banking and Insurance Committees, hold public hearings on Citizens mishandling of Cloverplace’s claims and several other, similar cases still pending on the same strategy being played out here. We are happy to share our court filings to document each statement made herein, including our 53-page brief detailing the undisputed facts of these matters.

Respectfully submitted,

Ted A. Corless, Esq.

 

Corless Barfield Trial Group