AIken v USAA Continues: More Employees Take the Stand

Yesterday the trial resumed after the holiday break with Rimkus and USAA employees taking the witness stand. From the looks of the Sun Herald story, yesterday was not very eventful as employees from Rimkus and USAA took the stand to deny the engineering reports were changed simply to save USAA money. Given what we have found regarding the McKinsey consulting recommendations regarding claims handling and its apparent widespread use across the insurance industry as the new claims adjusting bible I have a hard time believing those statements. This would never come out in Court but I’d love to see if just one of these altered engineering reports resulted in a favorable change for the claimant/insured. Forgive the sarcasm but I suspect if such were the case pink pigs really do fly…..

sop

USAA employees testify in case
By ANITA LEE [email protected]

GULFPORT –Employees testified that USAA Casualty Insurance Co. did not conspire with engineering firm Rimkus Consulting Group Inc. to deny coverage to a couple after Hurricane Katrina.

“Absolutely not,” said Rimkus manager Paul Colman, whose denial was echoed by two USAA claims managers testifying in the second week of the U.S. District Court trial.

The three were called to the stand Tuesday by the plaintiffs’ attorneys, who are trying to prove USAA pressured Rimkus to change reports that would minimize what the company owed for wind damage.

USAA paid David W. and Marilyn M. Aiken $178,205 for wind damage on a policy that exceeded $680,000 in coverage for their Pass Christian vacation home. The Metairie couple is seeking full coverage, plus punitive damages based on the allegation their claim was denied in bad faith.

USAA employee William McNamara, who supervises adjusters and coordinated work by engineering firms after Katrina, testified Tuesday afternoon. He said Rimkus provided reports for USAA on 200 properties. McNamara also verified he called Rimkus to request its engineering report on the damage be corrected and include more detail.

McNamara said he was not attempting to change the engineering company’s opinion about the cause of damage. Instead, he said, USAA needed the wind damage detailed in order to estimate what the Aikens were owed.

Rimkus had closed the file in December, after sending USAA a report that said, in part: “It cannot be visually determined from the remaining physical evidence the percentage of damage resulting from surge forces and the percentage of damage resulting from wind forces.” Federal flood insurance covered the Aiken’s damage from storm surge, paying them policy limits of $250,000 – less than half the home’s value.

A day after McNamara contacted Rimkus in March 2006, the engineering firm sent USAA a “supplemental report” that listed construction components most likely damaged by wind, including gutters, the roof, siding and trim. The supplemental findings also said a storm surge of 20 feet above ground, excluding waves, destroyed building super- structures.

Bad Faith Claims Handling: The New Norm for Big Insurance

Folks we got sold a pig in the poke with tort reform as our legislators just give them crooks in Gucci suits a bigger club to hit the common man right in the head. That’s right boys and girls, insurance companies will deny legitimate claims knowing most folks won’t fight ’em but occasionally people do like this Tow Truck outfit. So pop some pop corn, pull up a chair and see if Pink Pigs Fly. This video is dedicated to this Cowboy’s favorite corporate insurance lawyer in Portland Oregon, Mr. David Rossmiller.

Like this story says and Sop can personally vouch, there is no dollar amount too low for these crooks to try and screw you. And don’t you know that corporate insurance lawyers love making big fat fees fightin‘ for a year over $3000. If you want to be paid fair like, be prepared to sue!

Crooks in Gucci Suits? You Betcha. Put the Screws to the Customer

Insurance companies and their scallywag lawyer enablers like Ronnie Musgrove and Greg Copeland have no problem screwin’ the common man for a fee. Folks, this Cowboy won’t sell you a Pig in the Poke and neither will Anderson Cooper with CNN. Ole Anderson details first hand the underhanded tactics these crooks in fancy Gucci suits use to take advantage of old folks and the general public. Pull up a chair and take a look how the bad hands people treat accident victims.

Let the Lawsuits Fly: Good Hands in Boxing Gloves

We are diligently working rumors of a shareholder suit being filed against Allstate over the ramifications of their claims practices for investors. If the rumors hold another significant legal front has opened against this embattled insurance giant.

Allstate is not sitting still though obtaining a stay against the Florida Department of Insurance Regulation’s ban of the company announced last week:

Appeals Court Blocks Allstate Order

Friday January 18, 5:18 pm ET
By Brent Kallestad, Associated Press Writer

Court: Allstate Can Keep Selling Insurance Pending Appeal

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A court Friday allowed Allstate Corp. to keep selling insurance in Florida while the company appeals an order barring it from writing new policies.

State regulators told Allstate on Thursday to stop writing policies for what officials said was a failure to comply with a state subpoena in a dispute over the premiums the company charges for homeowners insurance in Florida.

The 1st District Court of Appeal stayed the order from the Office of Insurance Regulation pending the appeal, although it gave the office 10 days to show why the company shouldn’t be allowed to sell insurance in the meantime.

“This allows our more than 1,100 agents and their employees across the state to continue to do business in Florida, to create jobs and to serve their communities,” said Allstate spokesman Adam Shores. “We’re going to continue to work with OIR to provide the information they’ve requested in their subpoena.”

Ed Domansky, a spokesman for the Office of Insurance Regulation, said the state has 10 days to file its response but would probably file sooner.

“This is just another step in the process that enables Allstate to further delay production of the documents we requested,” Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty said Friday. “I will do everything within my authority as Florida’s insurance commissioner to ensure that the suspension remains in effect.”

McCarty has demanded information about why the company hasn’t dropped rates to the satisfaction of insurance regulators following last year’s passing of a bill meant to lower premiums. As part of that investigation, McCarty subpoenaed the company and officials at OIR said this week that the company appeared to be stalling and not giving up documents state investigators wanted.

The suspension had applied to all types of insurance sold by Allstate’s 10 insurance companies doing business in the state, but does not affect existing policy owners.

Benefits of Doubt

Until this week, I thought Ground Zero was as low as you could go; but, I underestimated the power of Hurricane Katrina.

Sop’s “Sunday Bonus” was intended as our collective “pass” on extending the scope of this blog to include the legal storm that hit the Scruggs Katrina Group. In fact, by the time we were up and running, the wind of that storm had broken the group apart and the Scruggs firm was “roof surfing” in the surge of an indictment.

The great lesson of Katrina, however, has been the benefits of doubt – so much so that the only certainty at times has been the storm. If it weren’t for doubt about claims handling, there would have been no justice for all who lost their homes to Hurricane Katrina.

The benefits of doubt balance the scales of justice. Too many are weighing the claims related to the indictment of Scruggs without benefit of doubt – and, guilt or innocence aside, injustice is the result.

Thus, I open the scales of justice here for discussion and welcome all who want to weigh in and provide the benefit of doubt.

Aiken v USAA Casualty Insurance Company Day 4: Expert Cross Examination

The trial continues as does the Sun Herald coverage. My own opinion based on the following story is that despite vigorous questioning from Mr. Copeland, the basic facts as introduced into evidence remain unchanged.

USAA trial testimony continues

Engineer: Tornado destroyed house
By PAM FIRMIN[email protected]

GULFPORT –Hours before Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge arrived, the Henderson Point home of David and Marilyn Aiken had been hit by a tornado and was long gone, forensic engineer Charles Ivy told the court Thursday morning.

He agreed reluctantly under questioning by Greg Copeland, attorney for USAA Casualty Insurance Co., that the surge would have been enough to destroy the house if the house were still there.

The report Ivy prepared to back up his findings went under the microscope with intensive questioning by Copeland, who lost patience with the witnesses’ often rambling responses and complained to U. S. District Judge L.T. Senter Jr., “He is not responding in any way.”

“Repeat the question,” Senter instructed.

The Aikens, represented by George W. Healy IV, are suing USAA and Rimkus Consulting Group Inc., which was employed by USAA, for conspiring to defraud them. They seek full payment of their $680,000 homeowner-insurance policy with USAA, which paid them $178,000.

Earlier testimony came from Rimkus engineers. One inspected the Aikens’ property and the other later made changes to that report without communicating with its author, which is against the company’s policy.

Rimkus attorney David Ward read verbatim from Ivy’s pretrial statement that he got data for his report from a preliminary storm model, and questioned Ivy’s reasons for not updating it when better data became available as time went on.

Healy’s next witnesses were to be Rimkus employee Paul Coleman and USAA employee David Rummel.

Breaking News: Florida Expands Suspension of Allstate

This Cowboy hopes some folks up Jackson way are taking notes.

Florida Expands Suspension of AllstateThursday

January 17, 4:07 pm ET
By Brent Kallestad, Associated Press Writer

Florida Suspends Allstate From Writing All Sorts of New Policies in the State

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A day after telling Allstate Corp. to stop writing new car insurance policies in Florida, state regulators told the company to stop writing any new business in the state — including home insurance.

Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty had initially planned to clamp down on just the company’s auto business and its four companies doing business in Florida. But he expanded the suspension Thursday to include Allstate’s 10 companies nationally and all of its insurance lines.

McCarty abruptly ended a scheduled two-day meeting Tuesday after just two hours, angered that Allstate officials failed to fully comply with a subpoena seeking information on property coverage rates.

“We’re in the business of protecting homes, protecting automobiles and that’s what we want to do because that’s the role we play in this economy, in this marketplace,” Allstate spokesman Adam Shores said Thursday. “And we want to continue to do that.”

The suspended companies are Allstate Floridian Insurance Co., Allstate Indemnity, Allstate Property & Casualty Insurance Co., Allstate Insurance Co., Allstate Fire and Casualty Insurance Co., Encompass Insurance Co. of America, Encompass Indemnity Co., Encompass Floridian Insurance Co. and Encompass Floridian Indemnity Co.

Gov. Charlie Crist applauded the expended supension, which will last until the state gets the materials it demanded with the subpoena.

“I don’t know why you’d want to keep ’em,” said Crist, a longtime antagonist of many insurance companies he believes have gouged Floridians since the hurricanes that struck the state in 2004 and 2005. “I don’t know why you’d want to pay them money for anything.”

Allstate shares fell $1.35, or 2.7 percent, to $49.58 in late trading Thursday amid a broad market pullback.

Aiken V USAA Casualty Insurance Company Day 3: The Experts

In our first post on the trial, testimony revealed Rimkus Engineering supervisor James Jordan altered the onsite engineer’s report on the Aiken site favorably towards Rimkus client USAA without consulting the onsite engineer, Roverta Chapa in direct violation of Rimkus procedure. The following Sun Herald story recounts the testiomony of two plaintiff experts, a metorologist and structural engineer who both introduced evidence supporting the conclusions of Rimkus onsite engineer Roverta Chapa who also found strong evidence of wind damage to the property:

Experts assert pre-surge tornado damage

Testimony in trial against insurer USAA

By PAM FIRMINmailto:[email protected]

GULFPORT –Testifying as expert witnesses, a meteorologist and a forensic engineer Wednesday afternoon described why tornadic force rather than storm surge was most likely responsible for the Katrina destruction of David and Marilyn Aiken’s home in Henderson Point.

A lawsuit filed by the Aikens seeks damages and full payment of their $680,000 insurance policy with USAA Casualty Insurance Co., which paid them $178,000 in structural and contents damage. The suit claims USAA and Rimkus Consulting Group Inc., which was employed by USAA, conspired to to defraud them. Earlier testimony revolved around whether changes to a property report by structural engineer James W. Jordan were made to downplay wind damage so USAA would owe less money.

On Wednesday, Day 3 of the trial projected to last several weeks, presiding U.S. District Judge L.T. Senter Jr. frequently tried to move proceedings along, one time telling attorneys who haggled over details of intricate meteorological documents that it was “not necessary to go over every bit of the document” and later that “everybody’s tired of hearing his jabbering back and forth.”

Documents were provided by meteorologist Charles Barrere of Norman, Oka., formerly of the New Orleans area, who said they showed a tornado being tracked by the National Weather Service in New Orleans around 3 a.m. Aug. 29 most likely passed directly over the Aikens’ house hours before the waters rose. The eight jurors were able to look at these on monitors in front of their seats.

Dr. Charles Ivy, a forensic engineer from Florida, said it was significant that 90 percent of the nails on surviving beams at the Aiken property were bent in a direction from north to south and that four sturdy frames still standing were “whipped toward the west, leaning toward the direction the water came from. If water caused the destruction, they would have been leaning toward the east.”

Court begins today with cross examination of Ivy by USAA attorney Greg Copeland and Rimkus attorney David Ward.

Breaking news: Another Massive Reinsurance Failure

Well folks, the crooks in Gucci suits have outdone themselves this time. Out of the blue here comes another ENRON type scam and business failure

Reinsurers with MBIA ties to record Q4 charges
Wed Jan 16, 2008 8:43pm EST

By Lilla Zuill

NEW YORK, Jan 16 (Reuters) – Bermuda reinsurers RenaissanceRe Holdings Ltd (RNR.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and PartnerRe Ltd (PRE.N: Quote, Profile, Research) said on Wednesday they will write off 3-year-old investments in Channel Re, a reinsurer formed solely to do business with MBIA Inc (MBI.N: Quote, Profile, Research), the world’s largest bond insurer.

The announcement comes after Channel Re notified the companies that fourth-quarter losses stemming from its business with MBIA are expected to exceed its shareholders equity.

RenRe said its investment in Channel Re carried a value of $126.7 million at the end of September. PartnerRe said it would take a $74 million fourth-quarter charge, equal to about $1.31 per share, to write down its investment.

Reinsurers effectively insure other insurers, spreading the risk of losses among more than one party.

Channel Re expects $200 million in credit impairments from a $3.3 billion mark-to-market charge at MBIA, according to Partner Re’s statement.

David Lilly, an outside spokesman for RenRe, declined to comment further on the Channel Re development. PartnerRe could not immediately be reached for comment.

Rising defaults in mortgage-related bonds have threatened to wipe out a significant amount of capital for bond insurers such as MBIA, putting ratings under threat of downgrade.

Last month MBIA took steps to shore up capital, securing up to $1 billion from private equity firm Warburg Pincus, and last week sold $1 billion of surplus notes.

Investors appear to still have doubts; MBIA shares fell 16.5 percent to $13.40 on Wednesday.

OFFSHORE PROTECTION

Channel Re was jointly formed in Bermuda in 2004 by MBIA, RenRe, PartnerRe and Koch Financial to do business exclusively with MBIA, which held a 17 percent stake. RenaissanceRe was the largest owner with about 33 percent, Koch owned roughly 30 percent and Partner Re, 20 percent.

Channel Re had a triple-A rating, with a stable outlook, from McGraw-Hill Co’s (MHP.N: Quote, Profile, Research) rating firm Standard & Poor’s.

Bermuda, an offshore reinsurance center, is home to more than 1,500 insurers and about half a dozen bond reinsurers, including another that counted MBIA as a large customer, Ram Reinsurance Holdings (RAMR.O: Quote, Profile, Research).

Separately, RenaissanceRe said it will also take a $55 million charge in the fourth quarter to increase its incurred, but not realized, reserves for subprime-related exposures in its casualty clash reinsurance business.

RenRe said it expects to post a profit in the fourth quarter and for the full year despite the charges. It is due to report quarterly earnings on Feb. 5.