Citizens Property Insurance settles big Tampa
Bay sinkhole case after executive director tours damaged condos
Article Courtesy of The Tampa Bay Times
May 3, 2018
PALM HARBOR — Citizens Property Insurance, hit with a
$12.7 million verdict in March, has settled its long-running legal
battle with a Palm Harbor condo association over sinkhole claims.
No details were released, but "we
absolutely killed it," said a jubilant Ted Corless, the
attorney who represents the association.
In a news release, the state-run Citizens said it would pay
claims up to the policy limits for repairing 109 homes in
the complex. Because the verdict covered estimated costs for
just 83 of the homes, the settlement amount could be
substantially higher than $12.7 million.
As a result of the agreement reached Monday, Corless said
Citizens no longer will be involved with any Cloverplace
claims and residents will work with their own contractors
and engineers to stabilize their homes.
RELATED COVERAGE: Citizens, hit with $12.7 million verdict,
acted in ‘monumental bad faith,’ homeowner says
The company is "pleased" with the settlement, executive
director Barry Gilway said in the release.
"Citizens’ objective has always been to
assure that necessary remediation takes place and that a
contract for repairs has been executed," he said. "This
settlement assures that funds are paid specifically to
complete verified repairs."
An entrance sign to Cloverplace condos. A recent
$12.7 million jury verdict against Citizens has which has refused to
pay on sinkhole claims filed by residents of the Cloverplace Condo
Association in Palm Harbor.
As far back as 2007 Cloverplace residents began to notice signs of
sinkhole activity including stucco peeling of the walls and doors not
shutting properly. The homeowners association sued Citizens in 201l
after it refused to pay claims on 83 of the homes. One owner, Dennis
McKenna, accused the company of acting in "monumental bad faith" as
property values plunged and it became hard to sell Cloverplace condos.
In March, a Pinellas County jury announced its verdict, thought to be
one of the largest ever against Citizens. But the company said it would
appeal, claiming it "is not in the best interest of Citizens or the
community" to pay cash without requiring repairs to be made.
Both sides credited Rep. Chris Sprowls, whose district includes
Cloverplace, with bringing them together to work out an agreement. The
lawmaker encouraged Gilway to visit the community and see the damage for
"After Gilway went out there and reported back to (Sprowls), within 24
hours everything changed," Corless said. "(Sprowls) really was the
beginning and the end of the solution -- it really came from him.’’
The Pinellas Republican said Gilway realized "these folks just want to
fix their homes"
"We expect that any insurance company operating in this state,
especially one that is government-backed, live up to its obligations,"
Sprowls said. "The residents of Cloverplace rallied together to bring
about justice for their cause and I was pleased to work with both
parties to come up a resolution that insured wrongs have been righted."
Corless, the attorney, said the homeowners association plans to
"immediately terminate" its insurance coverage with Citizens and,
presumably, find a new carrier.