November 18, 2020

Following Hurricane Irma, dozens of Condo Associations on the West Coast of Florida filed claims with their insurers for wind damages to the structures, windows, and doors.  Many insurers stepped up to investigate and pay the claims they owed, rather than delay or deny coverage.  Unfortunately for some insureds, insurance companies used out-of-state claim adjusters with no experience handling named hurricanes and their damage.

In a case styled Sea Island South Condominium IV, Inc. v. Weston Insurance Company, currently set for a jury trial in Pinellas County, Florida, Weston Insurance Company representatives admitted to using adjusters with virtually no experience in handling hurricanes.  On its website, Weston Insurance Company describes itself as being “a focused windstorm specialist.” You would assume an insurer who claims to “specialize” in windstorm events, like hurricanes, would use claim adjusters with at least some degree of hurricane experience. 

Upon receipt of the claim, Weston Insurance Company sent out Patricia Childers a few weeks after the storm.  Ms. Childers testified that before Hurricane Irma, she had never previously adjusted a hurricane loss.  In fact, Ms. Childers was licensed in Michigan but had obtained a temporary, six-month license to adjust losses in Florida.  Unfortunately for insureds, any claim adjuster licensed in one state can apply to Florida for a temporary license, which lasts for only six months, regardless of their experience in dealing with hurricane claims.  Ms. Childers lacked any experience as a general contractor or as an engineer and was instead an experienced workers’ compensation adjuster.

Ms. Childers inspected the property in Clearwater Beach, Florida, in October 2017, and after taking a few photos, she immediately discovered that the loss was well outside her areas of expertise and experience.  “It was beyond my expertise,” she testified, “and I would feel better if my supervisor [Troy Winslow] just took it over.”  After sharing her concerns with Mr. Winslow about her inability to adjust the loss, he decided to take over the file. 

But, for reasons that remain unclear, Weston Insurance Company waited more than seven months until June 2018 before tasking Mr. Winslow to go back to the property to adjust the loss.  Unfortunately for the insured and the insurer, his six month temporary license had expired by the time he went back out.  Spoiler alert:  That’s very bad. 

Under Florida law, no person may be, act as, or advertise or hold himself or herself out to be an insurance adjuster unless the department currently licenses him or her. See Section 626.112(1)(a), Florida Statutes.  Any person who knowingly transacts insurance or otherwise engages in insurance activities in Florida without a license in violation of Florida law commits a felony of the third degree.

This case is set for trial by Ted Corless and Mary Catherine Lamoureux of Team CBTG against Weston Insurance Company for December 14, 2020, in Pinellas County, Florida.  Suppose you are an insured of Weston Insurance Company and had a clam adjusted by Troy Winslow during the timeframe described above. In that case, we’d like to hear from you, as Weston Insurance Company may have been using Mr. Winslow and other unlicensed adjusters in Florida for other claims. Call 813-258-4998 or email us at service@corlessbarfield.com.

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