Monday, June 30, 2008

Employers Can Measure Transitional-Duty Savings

A new free online calculator shows how much money an employer can save by bringing back injured employees sooner with transitional-duty jobs.

The return-to-work cost-savings calculator is available at www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/tdc_calc.php.

The calculator is a quick, easy-to-use tool that shows management how much the transitional-duty program is saving the organization. It also calculates how much a particular lost-time claim costs the employer. The calculator is one of many free tools available on Workers Comp Kit®, a comprehensive Web-based cost-control program for employers of all sizes and types. Transitional-duty programs let injured employees become productive sooner by giving them real jobs to do while they heal. But setting up or maintaining a program can be a tough sell unless you can show senior management the bottom-line benefits, according to Rebecca Shafer, president of Amaxx, provider of Workers Comp Kit.

Dollar Saved = $10 Earned

The calculator shows how $1 saved can be equivalent to $10 earned, depending on profit margins. For example, XYZ Widget Company’s profit margin is 10 percent. If it can save $100,000 with a transitional-duty program, that’s equivalent to putting $1 million of new revenue on the books. A company with a 5 percent margin would benefit twice as much.

“These calculations are real eye-openers,” Shafer said. “Given a tough economy, organizations will find it difficult to grow their top lines. Saving on workers’ compensation through transitional duty and other proven strategies makes a big difference on the bottom line.”

Flood Impact Study Set

CEC Combustion Services Group is announcing sponsorship of a major study of flood related damage and claims to boilers, furnaces, hot water heaters, fuel systems, generators, and other infrastructure related systems.

The Midwest floods have crippled infrastructure systems at many hospitals and manufacturing facilities. Home owners are also impacted by claims for furnaces and hot water heaters. The firm is soliciting information from insurers and end users related to claims for this kind of damage.

In many cases this equipment can not be reused once it is exposed to water damage. Lead times for damaged components can be 6 to 8 weeks and 12 to 52 weeks for some boilers. Contaminated fuel oil can damage systems and make for explosion risks if it is not handled properly. Utility regulators and meters underwater can delay facilities from being usable. These issues impact the basic ability of these facilities to function and can make for significant business interruption claims to insurers. Fuel oil contamination and utility regulator issues can make for explosion and fire risks.

The study will result in a paper providing information on how to flood harden these kinds of infrastructure systems.

If you can participate, contact John Puskar, P.E. at (216) 749 2992 or via email at jpuskar@Combustionsafety.com.

Teen Killed at Six Flags Over Georgia

Georgia authorities continue to investigate the death of a 17-year-old on Saturday at Six Flags Over Georgia.

According to Cobb County authorities, the teen, Asia Leeshawn Ferguson, was killed instantly when hit by "Batman the Ride," which reportedly was going at around 50 mph at the time of the accident. Officials say the deceased teen, who hailed from South Carolina, and another teen reportedly scaled the fences and entered a restricted venue where the rollercoaster dips low to the ground.

The ride was empty at the time of the accident and the other teen was not injured.

In a written news release, the park's public relations department said, “The areas where the individuals entered were clearly marked with signs that stated ‘Restricted area / Authorized personnel only’ and a sign on a locked gate that read: ‘Danger zone. Do not enter. Authorized personnel only.’”

Another fatality involving the ride took place back in May of 2002. At that time, a park worker
was in a restricted area on a platform when he was hit in the head by 14-year-old girl on the front car of the ride.

Gov. Asks Insurers for Extra Help With Flood Cases

Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt and the Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration (DIFP) have called on insurance companies to provide maximum consideration to flood victims in the coming days.

"State, local and private organizations have been working together to assist Missouri residents in flooded areas and it has been encouraging to see firsthand how Missouri communities are banding together to fight the flooding," Gov. Blunt said. "I urge insurance companies to join this cooperative effort by providing extended grace periods for premium payments and claims documentation procedures for those affected by the flooding."

"Several Missourians are grappling with the hardships of being displaced from their homes and losing their family’s belongings and important records," said Linda Bohrer, acting director of DIFP. "I applaud those insurance companies that have already instituted programs to assist Missouri insurance consumers during this very difficult time."

DIFP also reminds insurance companies of Bulletin 93-10: Cancellation of Flood Victims’ Insurance which was issued during the 1993 floods as they evaluate their disaster planning response. This bulletin states that insurers may not cancel a homeowner’s insurance because the insured property has been subject to flooding.

If Missouri consumers have questions regarding their coverage, they should contact their insurance agent or company representative. For more information, visit www.insurance.mo.gov or call the Consumer Insurance Hotline at 1-800-726-7390.

Gov. Blunt received an Expedited Major Disaster Declaration for 22 Missouri counties and the City of St. Louis as a result of flooding and severe weather along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.

The 22 Missouri counties are: Andrew, Atchison, Buchanan, Cape Girardeau, Clark, Holt, Jefferson, Lewis, Lincoln, Marion, Mississippi, New Madrid, Nodaway, Pemiscot, Perry, Pike, Platte, Ralls, St. Charles, St Louis, Ste Genevieve and Scott Counties and the independent City of St. Louis.

York Insurance Services Group Buys ARPCO

First Mercury Financial Corp. announced the sale of its wholly-owned subsidiary, American Risk Pooling Consultants Inc. and its affiliates, to York Insurance Services Group Inc.

ARPCO, based in Southfield, Michigan, provides pool administration services, including underwriting, claims, loss control/risk management, and reinsurance, to a variety of self-insured public entity pools throughout the Midwest. York is a privately held provider of claims-handling, specialized loss adjusting, and other insurance services based in Parsippany, New Jersey. ARPCO will become part of York Risk Management Services, a division of York that specializes in public entities, such as cities, townships, special districts, and schools throughout the country.

"We are pleased to announce the successful closing of this transaction. We believe York offers a good fit for ARPCO, its customers and employees and will enhance ARPCO's tradition of excellent customer service," said Richard Smith, chairman and chief executive officer of First Mercury. "At the same time, the proceeds of the sale will allow First Mercury to pursue opportunities consistent with our core strategy of entering new specialty niche property/casualty insurance products and market segments," added Smith.

Alleghany Sub Merges With Allied World Assurance

Alleghany Corp. announced that its subsidiary Darwin Professional Underwriters Inc. has entered into a merger agreement with Allied World Assurance Company Holdings Ltd. whereby Allied World will acquire all of the issued and outstanding shares of Darwin common stock for cash consideration of $32.00 per share.

Upon the closing of the transaction, Alleghany expects to receive aggregate proceeds of approximately $300 million in cash for its 9,371,096 shares of Darwin common stock, which represent about 55% of the issued and outstanding shares of Darwin common stock. Alleghany anticipates that the transaction will result in an after-tax gain of approximately $94 million, which includes about $9 million of gain deferred at the time of Darwins initial public offering in May 2006.

The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals and to the consent of Darwin stockholders. As an inducement to Allied World to enter into the merger agreement, Alleghany entered into a voting agreement with Allied World pursuant to which Alleghany has agreed, subject to certain conditions, to vote a number of shares of its Darwin common stock equal to 40% of the issued and outstanding shares of common stock of Darwin in favor of the approval of the transaction. The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2008.

Alleghany is engaged through its subsidiary Alleghany Insurance Holdings LLC (consisting of its insurance operating units RSUI Group Inc., Capitol Transamerica Corporation, and Employers Direct Corporation, in addition to Darwin) in the property and casualty business.

Best: U.S. P/C Net Income Drops in Quarter 1

According to an A.M. Best Special Report, the U.S. property/casualty industrys net profit plunged 45% to $9.3 billion in the first quarter of 2008, driven primarily by premium erosion, deteriorating underwriting results, higher catastrophe-related losses and weaker investment returns.

In addition, the industrys performance was negatively impacted by significant underwriting losses in the mortgage and financial guaranty segments, driven by the fragile state of the housing and mortgage markets across the country. Annualized after-tax return on equity fell to 11.4% for the 12 months ended March 31, 2008.

* NPW fell 2.2% to $112.3 billion through the first quarter, driven by across-the-board softening in most personal and commercial lines; leakage of premium to non-U.S. insurers; and growing interest in alternative forms of risk transfer.

Amid challenging market conditions, the property/casualty industry reported a modest underwriting loss through the first quarter of 2008 after posting underwriting profits over the previous two calendar years.

The industrys overall combined ratio deteriorated to 99.7 during the first quarter, up from 91.6 posted in the same period of 2007.

Excluding the impact of groups within the A.M. Best mortgage and financial guarantee composites, the overall industry would have reported a combined ratio of 96.9.

Policyholder surplus (PHS) declined 0.5% to $525.0 billion through the first quarter from year-end 2007; despite this decline, PHS grew 3.4% for the 12 months ended March 31, 2008.

First-quarter 2008 catastrophe losses in the United States were an estimated $3.35 billion, up from $1.26 billion during the same period of 2007.

Underwriting results in the personal lines segment deteriorated through the first quarter of 2008, with a combined ratio of 98.5.

The combined ratio in the commercial lines segment deteriorated to 101.7 in the first quarter, as results reflected significant losses from mortgage and financial guaranty insurers.

The U.S. reinsurance segments combined ratio increased to 94.8 in the first quarter of 2008, up from 89.2 during the same period of 2007.

The U.S. property/casualty industry faces a significantly more challenging environment for the remainder of 2008, due to a combination of deteriorating rate adequacy, loosening terms and conditions, a more challenging investment climate and looming hurricane-related losses.

BestWeek subscribers can download a PDF copy of all full special reports at no additional cost or a combination of the PDF copies plus all related spreadsheet files of the report data at no additional cost from www.bestweek.com.

Nonsubscribers can download a PDF copy of the full special report (12 pages) for $55 or a combination of the PDF copy plus the spreadsheet file of the report data for $140 from www.bestweek.com. Call customer service at (908) 439-2200, ext. 5742 for more information.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Famed Kansas City Barbecue Destroyed in Fire

A San Diego landmark was destroyed by fire Thursday afternoon.

Kansas City Barbecue, which was used for filming some of the scenes from the movie "Top Gun," was gutted after a fire began in an open cooking pit and spread throughout the restaurant's inside.

Although no one was hurt, damages were reported at $250,000 to the structure and $150,000 to the contents. That figure does not include the value of decades worth of memorabilia, including photographs and props from the 1986 film.

Weather Damaged Crop Costs Top $8 Billion

Crops have incurred more than $8 billion in estimated weather-related damage thus far in 2008, according to American Farm Bureau Federation’s June Market Update.

Iowa accounts for approximately half the damage. However, there are notable problems in at least a dozen other states ranging from the excessive wetness and flooding in Illinois to drought in California.

“Wet weather and flooding create issues, as farmers are unable to plant their crops,” said Terry Francl, AFBF senior economist. “The crops they do plant do not sprout and grow, resulting in fewer acres harvested. Additionally, the difficult growing conditions greatly reduce the yield of the crop that is harvested.” He adds that expected Iowa corn yields are reduced 16 percent for this year, and 1.5 million to 2 million acres of corn and soybeans in Iowa that farmers intended to plant this spring will likely remain fallow.

This results in a $4 billion shot to Iowa’s crops. Other states taking a hit from excessive wetness and flooding are: Illinois, $1.3 billion; Missouri, $900 million; Indiana, $500 million; Nebraska $500 million; and an additional $1 billion in remaining wet states.

Some areas are experiencing the opposite problem. Drought is taking a toll on several western states and a few states in the southeast. Northern California battled the driest spring in its history. As a whole, the state suffered $500 million in estimated damage. This equals the estimated drought-related damage in all other states combined.

Nationally, the average corn yield is likely to decline some eight to 10 bushels per acre from the 2008 trend line, mostly due to inclement weather. The national average soybean yield is also likely to be down one to two bushels per acre from the current Agriculture Department projection of 42 bushels per acre.

These damage estimates relate only to crop production as of the last week of June. This means livestock, infrastructure, building and equipment losses aren’t considered.

Additionally, the estimate assumes normal weather conditions will ensue for the remainder of the growing season. Varying weather conditions later in the season could cause the estimate to grow or contract.

Crump/Tri-City Brokerage Offers PowerGuard

Crump Insurance Services' Tri-City Brokerage, part of Crump Group, has introduced a new insurance solution for wind energy power plants. This capability, offered through a partnership with PowerGuard, provides a new risk management option for these operations within the alternative energy sector.

Crump/Tri-City Brokerage is the exclusive wholesale access point, providing multi-line coverage for wind power plant development, construction and operational risks. Offered through an A.M. Best A XV rated admitted carrier, coverage offered includes property, general liability, auto, umbrella, workers' compensation -- plus sub-limits for earthquake and flood (outside CA), business interruption, E&O, and pollution cleanup.

Through flexible forms and by covering serial losses through the "step down" method instead of traditional "coverage suspensions", Crump/Tri-City works with retailers and their clients to offer the most comprehensive insurance packages at the most competitive price. Coverage extends to operations in the U.S. and Canada.

"Alternative energy sources are crucial at a time when concerns about the cost of energy, the environment, and foreign dependence are escalating. Effective risk strategies to protect construction and operational concerns are vital to the growth of this industry," said John Jennings, president of Crump Insurance Services. "We are pleased to be able to offer this coverage that is tailored specifically to the needs of wind power operations," Jennings said.

For further information, visit www.tricityins.com .

6.7 Mag Quake Hits off India's Andaman Islands

A 6.7 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of India's Andaman Islands on Friday. There were no reports of any injuries or serious damage.

India's Meteorological Department, which said the incident happened at 1140 GMT on Friday, labeled the quake as moderate.

The remote islands were just one of many areas heavily impacted by a major tsunami in December, 2004.

Mass. Boaters Have New Insurance Option

Progressive announced that it is offering boat insurance for Massachusetts customers who shop online.

To get a quote or learn more about its rates, coverages and services, boaters can visit www.progressive.com, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Were excited to offer our unique combination of coverages and services to Massachusetts boaters, said Dominic Mediate, Progressives boat product manager. Things like 24/7 claims service and specialized coverages such as Emergency Towing and Labor and Total Loss Replacement are designed to help get boaters back on the water fast in the event of a loss.

Progressive began writing car insurance for online shoppers in Massachusetts in May of this year, and has been offering commercial auto insurance to business owners in the state through independent insurance agents for more than a year.

Over time, it plans to offer other products, including motorcycle and recreational vehicle insurance, and other ways to shop, such as through independent agents.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

CDI Reacts to The Doctors Company Purchase

Following consent by the Department of Insurance (Department) to the acquisition of SCPIE Holdings Inc. (SCPIE) by The Doctors Company (Doctors), the Department's General Counsel, Adam Cole, issued the following statement:

"The governing statute, Insurance Code Section 1215.2(d), delineates specific criteria under which this transaction was considered. After careful review and extensive input from objectors and Doctors, the Commissioner authorized the application of Doctors to acquire SCPIE.

"During the review, concerns were expressed that this transaction would lessen competition in medical malpractice insurance in California. To address that issue, the Commissioner retained Attorney General Jerry Brown's office to render an opinion. The Attorney General's office concluded twice that Doctors' acquisition of SCPIE would not substantially lessen competition in insurance in California. The Federal Trade Commission also took no action to prevent Doctors' proposed acquisition of SCPIE in response to Doctors' Hart-Scott-Rodino Act filing.

"In order to ensure that neither Doctors' nor SCPIE's rates are excessive, the Commissioner required that Doctors, as a condition of the authorization, submit rate applications for both itself and SCPIE by September 1, 2008, and at least every three years thereafter. Doctors agreed to these conditions.

"During the review, the Department became aware that a federal criminal investigation was opened against Doctors and/or one or more current or former Doctors employees related to possible unauthorized access by Doctors to SCPIE's computer system. The U.S. Attorney's office in Los Angeles declined to comment on the status of this matter. The Department is unable to ascertain whether the criminal investigation is likely to lead to any action against Doctors.

"Additionally, two directors and an officer of Doctors made statements to the Department in connection with the application that later turned out to be false or misleading. They are no longer with Doctors."

SCPIE Holdings Inc. announced it had entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by The Doctors Company last October for $28 per share in cash, or an aggregate purchase price of approximately $281 million.

Man Convicted in 2005 Metrolink Train Disaster

Juan Alvarez, 29, the man accused of killing 11 people back in a 2005 commuter train derailment in Glendale, California, was convicted Thursday on 11 counts of first-degree murder.

Alvarez, who was acquitted on a count labeled train wrecking, was also convicted of one count of arson.

According to authorities, Alvarez said he was trying to commit suicide when he stationed his SUV on railroad tracks back in January of 2005. That decision resulted in a Metrolink train derailing and striking a second Metrolink train.

The penalty phase of Alvarez's trial will take place next month. Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty.

Question of the day: Should Juan Alvarez get the death penalty when he is sentenced next month? Feel free to leave a comment.

Missouri Gov. Signs Work Comp Legislative Fix

The American Insurance Association (AIA) today commended Gov. Matt Blunt (R) for signing a legislative fix to the state’s onerous Supreme Court decision in Schoemehl but called for swift action on the state’s failing Workers’ Compensation Second Injury Fund (SIF).

“Fixing the Schoemehl decision was a priority of the AIA and we’re pleased that the General Assembly and governor worked together to get it done,” said Steve Schneider, AIA vice president, Midwest Region. “We now hope, as we testified last year, that the state will abolish the Second Injury Fund, which has hundreds of millions in projected deficits.”

House Bill 1883 was signed by Gov. Blunt today. The key provision of the legislation overturns the state Supreme Court decision in Schoemehl v. Treasurer of the State of Missouri that extended workers’ compensation benefits to family members of a deceased worker. The new law now says that compensation for the permanent total disability of an injured employee terminates on the date of the injured employee's death.

“We welcome the governor enacting HB 1883, but now the task at hand is to further improve the state’s workers’ compensation insurance market by ending the SIF. Such a move would internalize all the costs to employers and their workers’ compensation insurers, rather than being ‘socialized’ throughout the marketplace via a catch-all pool. Doing so would not impact the amount of benefits that any injured worker will receive in any way,” said Schneider.

Second injury funds have been abolished in 19 states since the early 1990’s, most recently in Arkansas and New York. According to an actuarial study completed in 2007 for the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, the Missouri SIF is projected to have a negative balance by 2009, excluding the impact of the Schoemehl decision.

“Unfortunately, repealing a SIF does not mean that its debt is erased. The SIF’s unfunded liability still must be financed, usually in continued existing assessments, until all of its outstanding claims are paid and the deficit is resolved. These assessments are imposed on all employers in Missouri and are tantamount to an additional tax on employment. The sooner the SIF is abolished and its liabilities begin running off, the sooner the assessments can begin to decline. That would be good news to all Missouri employers,” added Schneider.

The following states have repealed their Second Injury Funds:

STATE YEAR

Alabama 1992

Arkansas 2007

Colorado 1993

Connecticut 1995

District of Columbia 1998

Florida 1997

Georgia 2004

Kansas 1993

Kentucky 1996

Maine 1992

Minnesota 1995

Nebraska 1997

New Mexico 1996

New York 2007

Rhode Island 1998

South Dakota 1999

Utah 1994

Vermont 1999

West Virginia 2003

PEMCO Poll: Wash. Drivers Doubt Law's Toughness

According to a recent poll conducted by PEMCO Insurance, while Washington drivers agree that the steady rise in cell phone usage while behind the wheel calls for changes to state law, most think the impending July 1 change making it illegal to use a cell phone without a hands-free device while driving doesn't go far enough.

Of those polled, a majority (60 percent) support making cell phone-usage violations a primary offense, allowing law enforcement to cite violators solely for text-messaging or talking on a cell phone while driving. However, the approved law is a secondary offense, which requires motorists be in violation of a primary offense before they can be cited for using a cell phone while driving.

PEMCO Insurance's Northwest Poll consistently demonstrates drivers' concern for regulating the use of a cell phone while driving. In 2005, the poll reported that four out of five Washington drivers believe that talking on cell phones while driving should be legal only with hands-free devices, or made illegal altogether.

"These trends have held steady for the past three years," said PEMCO spokesperson Jon Osterberg. "Last year when we asked drivers statewide what they thought about the law, two out of three told us that talking on a cell phone while driving should be a primary offense. People understand that holding a cell phone while driving is distracting, and they're letting us know more should be done to regulate it."

An even larger majority -- 73 percent -- express that text-messaging behind the wheel, which became illegal as a secondary offense on Jan. 1, 2008, should also be cited as a primary offense.

The poll also reveals that while drivers are calling for more-stringent enforcement of technology-usage laws, those same drivers admit to relying more on cell phones while on the road.

This year, the percentage of those who already use hands-free devices rose from 17 to 21 percent, while an even greater number -- 28 percent -- report using a hand-held device while driving.

Despite these increases, drivers maintain that their biggest safety concern while driving relates to cell phone usage. Two in three respondents express that texting and talking on a cell phone while driving contributes significantly more to accidents and problems on Washington roadways -- even more so than speeding and driving while fatigued.

"There's no question that talking on a cell phone while driving keeps us from giving our full attention to the road. The good news is, Washington drivers recognize the risks and want stronger laws despite our increased dependence on technology," Osterberg said.

Perhaps not surprising, electronic-device usage while driving is particularly high among younger drivers. Younger drivers do, however, indicate greater intent (35 percent versus 29 percent overall) to purchase a hands-free device for use with their mobile phone.

Markel Unveils Renter's Protection Program

Markel American Insurance Company announced the introduction of its new Renter's Protection insurance program.

The program provides tenant homeowner's coverage on a broader form than the standard HO-4 renter's policy and provides many options to increase coverage as well as the limits within the policy. It is designed to meet the needs of tenants in rental complexes in a unique way by providing options not commonly available.

Program highlights include the following options:

-- Flood Coverage

-- Earthquake Coverage

-- Multiple levels of endorsements to increase limits for items such as jewelry, electronics and tools

-- Scheduled Personal Property Coverage

-- The ability for properties that meet specific criteria to receive discounts

"This program is the premier offering for renter's insurance coverage," said Timberlee Tamraz Grove, president and COO of Markel American Insurance Company. "In developing this program, we built in options that can't be found anywhere else."

The program is currently offered nationwide through Leasing Desk, a national provider of easy-to-implement customized, risk transfer solutions for the multi-housing industry. As Dirk Wakeham, president and CEO of Leasing Desk said, "This furthers our strategy of providing our apartment owner clients multiple A-rated insurance companies and demonstrates that we are capable of helping them fulfill their desire to mandate insurance coverage for all residents."

A subsidiary of the Markel Corporation, Markel American Insurance Company specializes in the lines of Powersport Products, Specialty Marine, Preferred Yacht and Small Boat, and Specialty Property. For more information, visit www.markelamerican.com.

Student Workforce Injuries Prove Major Concern

More than 4 million students will enter the workforce as seasonal workers this summer -- and while these students are an excellent asset to businesses, they also are at risk of being injured if proper safety training isn't provided.

Student workers are nearly twice as likely as adults to be injured on the job, due in large part to a lack of workplace training. According to Accident Fund's recently completed Future Business Index, just over half (54 percent) of businesses surveyed plan to provide any safety training for their student workers, despite saying that workplace safety is a high priority.

"We were surprised to hear that so few companies offer safety training to student employees," said Keith Adkins, vice president of Marketing at Accident Fund. "Parents might believe their children are receiving adequate safety training, but based on the survey results, that isn't necessarily the case."

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) indicates that approximately 70 teenagers die each year from work-related injuries, and nearly 70,000 are injured severely enough to be taken to the emergency room. As part of an effort to decrease workplace injuries for student workers, Accident Fund developed "WorkSafe Students," a free student workplace safety program for use in high schools and businesses.

"Student workers are particularly vulnerable, due to their lack of experience," Adkins said. As a workers compensation insurance company, we want to provide tools to keep students safe and employers aware." It is essential that businesses understand the laws around student employment and that they recognize that specific training needs to be geared toward the student. Traditional safety training isn't always enough for teen workers.

The WorkSafe Students program is a 45-minute interactive awareness session geared toward high school juniors and seniors. The program can be taught in a classroom or assembly format. Students and employers need to understand child labor laws and potential workplace dangers. The WorkSafe Students program is designed to address these issues, helping to reduce injuries and fatalities.

The Worksafe Students program includes:

-- A teaching guide.

-- A student booklet, "Nightmare on Employment Street: Accident Fund's Teen Guide to Workplace Safety," which uses an edgy, horror-movie theme.

-- A gripping short video, "Lost Youth: Four Stories of Injured Young Workers."

"We want to reinforce to this age group that accidents can and do happen," Adkins said. "We also want business owners to make sure they are taking the right steps toward student safety. Workplace safety is our passion, and this program empowers students to know their rights and make safe decisions on the job."

To learn more about the WorkSafe Students program, view the brochure and video, and find out how to obtain the kit, visit www.worksafestudents.com

NBC Settles Lawsuit Involving Deceased Texas Man

A lawsuit brought by a woman whose brother shot himself during an NBC News To Catch a Predator sting has reportedly been settled.

Patricia Conradt, nor NBC News, offered any comment, after the $105 million lawsuit was reported finalized. NBC in a statement said, "The matter has been amicably resolved to the satisfaction of both parties."

Conradt filed the suit in 2007 in New York claiming that the show did not properly protect her brother, Louis William Conradt Jr. Dateline had been working with a civilian group, Perverted Justice, and local authorities in Murphy, Texas, conducting a sting on adult men trying to meet up with minors.

The November 2006 sting reported that Louis Conradt allegedly engaged in an explicit e-mail exchange with what he thought was a 13-year-old boy. The "boy" turned out to be a person working for Perverted Justice.

Conradt, a former Kaufman County, Texas prosecutor, failed to show up at the home of the "boy" he thought he was talking to.

When Dateline correspondent Chris Hanson and a camera crew went to his house with local police, Conradt shot himself to death as officers were entering the home.

IIABNY Applauds Liberty Mutual's Court Victory

The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of New York Inc. is congratulating Liberty Mutual for its conviction and perseverance in dealing with the legal action taken against it by the New York State Attorney General's office.

According to IIABNY, while other carriers were reaching compromise agreements with the AG's office related to charges of bid rigging and misconduct related to the payment of contingency commissions, Liberty Mutual chose to stand up and fight.

The company's efforts have been rewarded in a New York appeals court decision that ruled that Liberty Mutual—parent company of Peerless Insurance—could not be held responsible for failing to disclose payment of contingent commissions to brokers. The court said that payment of contingent commissions "are not illegal" and that Liberty Mutual was under no obligation to reveal those payments because "no special relationship" existed between the company and its brokers.

The association believes the New York Supreme Court's decision was correct, and IIABNY applauds Liberty Mutual's decision to stand up and fight the Attorney General's attack on a long standing and legitimate method of compensating agents and brokers.

IIABNY added that the agent and broker community owes a debt of gratitude to Liberty Mutual for its conviction in the face of so many other major carriers who chose to settle without a fight and now can no longer pay contingent commissions.

Ohio Sees Improvement After Passage of HB 100

The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) issued a progress report this month, one year after the passage of House Bill 100. The bill triggered a series of organizational and operational reforms to Ohio’s workers’ compensation system.

The progress report details reforms outlined in HB 100, including the creation of a new BWC Board of Directors. It also covers operational reform efforts aimed at providing stable costs, better services, accurate rates and safe workplaces for Ohio’s work force and its employers.

Click on the following report for a complete outline of these reform efforts:

Restoring Operational Excellence:
Comprehensive, Customer-Focused Reform of Ohio’s Workers’ Compensation System

“The progress report released today outlines the accomplishments and the numerous changes currently under way at BWC,” said Administrator Marsha Ryan. “There is much work to be done; however, we are on a steady path to comprehensively improve the performance of Ohio’s workers’ compensation system.”

Since Gov. Ted Strickland signed HB 100 on June 11, 2007, BWC has sought to improve the pricing equity for all Ohio employers. These actions include reducing the overall premium rates for private employers by 5 percent and a 10-percent reduction for universities and state agencies. BWC will also soon implement a new, more accurate and transparent reserving system to better calculate the reserves necessary for medical coverage of specific work related injuries.

“The BWC budget bill laid the groundwork for intense change and improvement for Ohio’s workers’ compensation system,” said Ryan. “Ohio’s employers and injured workers depend on an accurate, fair and stable BWC. It is imperative that we provide that to them. Restoring Operational Excellence serves as a road map of the journey BWC has taken in the past year, and where we will go in the future to restore the integrity of the agency and most importantly, the confidence of all Ohioans.”

Calif. Notes Settlement With Mercury Insurance

California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner announced a quarter-million dollar settlement with Mercury Insurance Group for alleged claims handling violations.

The California Department of Insurance (CDI) conducted a review of consumer complaints filed with the Department against Mercury Insurance, Mercury Casualty, and California Automobile Insurance Companies, collectively known as Mercury Insurance Group. Of the 121 files reviewed, a total of 258 violations were discovered to have occurred from January 2004 through December 2005. These violations involved several of the company's claims-handling practices, including unreasonable delays in affirming or denying coverage and issuing claim payments.

Mercury Insurance Group will pay the Department of Insurance $250,000 in monetary penalties, as well as $50,000 for CDI's legal fees and enforcement costs associated with the case. Additionally, if Mercury Insurance does not improve its performance standards - as evidenced by a 15% reduction in justified complaints - by Dec. 31, 2008, it may be ordered to pay an additional $200,000.

A copy of the signed order can be found here.

A copy of the stipulation and waiver can be found here.

Specialty Underwriters' Alliance Declines Offer

Specialty Underwriters' Alliance Inc. announced that the company's Board of Directors, in consultation with its financial and legal advisors, reviewed Hallmark Financial Services Inc.'s unsolicited, non-binding and conditional proposal to acquire SUAI in a stock for stock exchange that values SUAI's common stock at $6.50 per share.

After due deliberation, the SUAI Board unanimously concluded not to accept this offer, remain independent and continue with the execution of its current business strategy, which the Board believes represents a better long-term value for the company's shareholders.

This plan includes a focus on targeted specialty market niches based on the company's in-depth knowledge of these customer classes and a wholesale distribution model with its exclusive Partner Agents who are aligned with the company's interests to maximize profitability.

Specialty Underwriters' Alliance Inc., through its subsidiary SUA Insurance Company, is a specialty property and casualty insurance company that provides commercial insurance products through exclusive wholesale partner agents that serve niche groups of insureds.

Beazley Group Offering MLP Policy

Beazley Group plc (BEZ.L), an insurer of management liability risks, announced the availability of its new management liability package policy, BeazleyOne. This new policy combines employment practices, directors and officers and fiduciary liability coverage.

The package policy offers insureds a streamlined application and renewal process while maintaining flexibility. Insureds can purchase separate limits or combine limits for some or all of the coverages. Insureds also receive, at no additional cost, access to BeazleySource, an online risk management resource that offers loss prevention materials on all three coverages.

The BeazleyOne policy has enhanced coverage features including the ability to settle claims within the retention and nonrescindable coverage for nonindemnifiable claims against insured persons.

Product features include:

-- Beazley's new privacy extension to its Employment Practices Liability offering covers claims arising out of security breaches with respect to employees' information. The employment event extension provides employers with funds to hire professionals to help employees cope with certain major workplace events.

-- Directors and officers coverage offers a separate limit for insured persons as well as coverage for derivative demands and outside director coverage for those serving on non-profit boards.

-- Fiduciary covers claims arising from voluntary compliance programs sponsored by both the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Labor.

"The BeazleyOne management liability package policy is a state of the art policy that allows insureds to customize coverage. The combination of the innovative coverage features along with BeazleySource's comprehensive risk management make this policy a true market leader," said Carrie Brodzinski, BeazleyOne product manager.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

NAIC Supports Holocaust Insurance Act

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) commends the U.S. House Financial Services Committee for reporting out of committee H.R. 1746, the Holocaust Insurance Accountability Act of 2008.

In particular, the NAIC thanks Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Ranking Member Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) for their leadership in shepherding this legislation through the committee. The legislation is a measured approach to providing an ongoing mechanism to address policyholder concerns and recognizes the states' primary authority for regulating insurance.

The Holocaust Insurance Accountability Act of 2008 would, among other things: (1) require companies to respond to inquiries related to the existence of a policy within 90 days or be subject to a monetary penalty; (2) request that the New York State Holocaust Claims Processing Office monitor company responses and report insurer compliance to Congress; and (3) create a federal cause of action for any claim arising out of or related to a covered policy against any insurer.

The legislation recognizes the important role and efforts of state insurance regulators and the NAIC in resolving Holocaust era insurance claims, initially through the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims (ICHEIC) and, more recently, through an ongoing partnership with the New York State Holocaust Claims Processing Office.

Click HERE to view the legacy document, “Finding Claimants and Paying Them: The Creation and Workings of the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims.”

N.Y. Legislature Passes Coastal/Flex Legislation

A comprehensive bill (A.11693/S.8624) that would reinstate flex rating for automobile insurance throughout the state was passed by both houses of the New York State Legislature on Tuesday, a move supported by the American Insurance Association (AIA). The bill would also address issues surrounding insurance for homeowners in New York's coastal areas.

“Reinstatement of flex rating for private passenger automobile insurance has been one of the insurance industry’s top priorities in New York over the last seven years,” said Gary Henning, AIA Northeast Region assistant vice president. “A return to a more flexible rating system will better allow competitive market forces to work, ultimately delivering better products and more choices to consumers.”

Flex rating for automobile insurance had previously been in effect in New York from 1995 to 2001. During that time, premiums were relatively stable and more carriers were writing automobile insurance, according to Henning.

Under the bill, carriers would be allowed unlimited flexes downward and two flexes upward annually, within a 5% rating band. Any amount greater than the five percent limit would still have to be approved by the Superintendent of Insurance.

“Flex rating provides insurers with a more streamlined rating system,” said Henning. “In other states it has helped to increase the number of insurance companies doing business in the state, while decreasing the number of consumers in the residual market. Most importantly, increased competition helps reduce costs to consumers. We commend the legislature for taking another positive step towards modernizing the New York State market.”

With regard to homeowners' insurance, the legislation would make the New York Property Insurance Underwriting Association (NYPIUA) permanent. Up until this legislation, the market of last resort for homeowners unable to get insurance in the private market had to be reauthorized periodically. “Making NYPIUA permanent will provide for greater stability in the residual market,” explained Henning.

The bill would also implement a program designed to attract more competitors to the state's homeowners' insurance market. In addition, NYPIUA would be allowed to offer a more expansive type of coverage, "broad form coverage," to homeowners throughout the state. “The provisions in the bill would also create an incentive plan for carriers to write more coverage in coastal areas," said Henning.

A special advisory panel on homeowners' insurance and catastrophe coverage would also be created under the bill. The advisory panel would be required to report back to the legislature by Nov. 30, 2009, and annually thereafter, on ways to better protect people and property living in the state's coastal areas, and on ways to improve the homeowners' insurance marketplace for both insurers and consumers.

The bill will now go to Governor Paterson's desk, and is expected to be signed.

Tampa Women Arrested for PIP Fraud

Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced the arrest of two Tampa women on charges they allegedly billed insurance companies for over $40,000 in Personal Injury Protection- (PIP) related fraud charges.

Emilia Morejon, 34, and Yusdelin Castillo Valdes, 24, of Tampa are alleged to have submitted fraudulent bills totaling over $40,000 to several insurance carriers. Morejon, owner of Personal Injury Clinic, and Valdes, the clinic receptionist, submitted fraudulent bills for treatment not rendered.

The two were arrested Monday, booked into a Hillsborough County jail, and charged with Second Degree Insurance Fraud and Patient Brokering. If convicted, they could potentially face up to 15-years in prison.

The Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF), was assisted in the investigation by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) and AIG Insurance.

AKIC Gets Approval on Citizens Depopulation

American Keystone Insurance Company ("AKIC") has received approval from the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation and Citizens Property Insurance Corporation to assume as many as 718 policies from the Commercial Residential Account.

On June 25, 2008 AKIC assumed 446 policies from Citizens. AKIC plans to assume an additional 272 policies from Citizens by the end of 2008. These assumptions are substantial as premiums per policy average over $20,000 each. Reinsurance protection for the transaction was secured by King's Bay Reinsurance Intermediaries, Inc. of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

The approval to assume Commercial Residential policies, such as condominium association property, from Citizens is the first such approval granted by the OIR and Citizens. "We are pleased to have successfully concluded this transaction with the OIR and Citizens, which is a major step in the full development of our company as a private sector solution to the growth and recovery of the property insurance market in Florida", said Bruce Howson, president of AKIC.

Michael Cratem, senior vice president underwriting, added, "This assumption squarely puts AKIC into the Commercial Property business in Florida."

Michael Norman, senior vice president, commented, "We look forward to adding voluntary business to our mix and as a matter of fact, we wrote our first voluntary piece of condominium association business yesterday."

AKIC is in the process of contracting with its current personal lines agencies to expand into commercial property and is seeking new commercial agencies for voluntary business in selected areas of the state.

Fires Rage On in Northern, Central California

With an assist from firefighters from Southern California, Nevada and Oregon, firefighters in Northern and Central California continue to battle numerous blazes that originated from thousands of lightning strikes.

While the number of buildings destroyed has been limited, hundreds of residents have been forced to evacuate their homes.

Residents were ordered to evacuate in an area of Monterey County on Wednesday due to a huge blaze that began prior the lightning hits.

To date, more than 800 wildfires have burned across Northern California in just the last week alone.

The largest fire to date is a 90-square-mile, 58,000-acre fire burning in a remote region of the Los Padres National Forest in southern Monterey County. That fire started two weeks ago.

Smoke from the fires has darkened skies in the San Francisco Bay area and Central Valley. As a result, public health officials have issued air-quality warnings for those regions of the state.

Dogs Take a Bite Out of One's Insurance

Man’s best friend is sinking its teeth into homeowners insurance costs. Dog bites now account for one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claims, costing $356.2 million in 2007, up 10.5 percent from the previous year, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

An analysis of homeowners insurance data by the I.I.I. (www.iii.org) found that the average cost of dog bite claims increased by 11.5 percent in 2007 (the most recent figures available) to $24,511. Since 2003, the cost of these claims has risen nearly 28 percent. However, the actual number of claims paid by insurers has remained relatively stable over the past three years at about 14,500.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs annually, resulting in an estimated 800,000 injuries that require medical attention. With more than 50 percent of bites occurring on the dog owner’s property, the issue is a major source of concern for insurers.


“While the number of dog bite claims has remained about the same in the last three years, the average cost per claim continues to rise because of increased medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards which have risen well above inflation in recent years,” said Loretta Worters, vice president of the I.I.I.

Dog Owner Liability

Dog owners are liable for any injuries their pets cause in the following instances: if the owner knew the dog had a tendency to cause that kind of injury; if a state statute makes the owner liable, whether or not the owner knew the dog had a tendency to cause that kind of injury; or if the injury was caused by unreasonable carelessness on the part of the owner.

There are three kinds of law that impose liability on owners:

  • Dog-bite statute: The dog owner is automatically liable for any injury or property damage the dog causes, even without provocation.

  • “One-bite” rule: In some states, the owner is not held liable for the first bite the dog inflicts. Once an animal has demonstrated vicious behavior, such as biting or otherwise displaying a "vicious propensity", the owner can be held liable. Some states have moved away from the one-bite rule and hold owners responsible for any injury, regardless of whether the animal has previously bitten someone.

  • Negligence laws: The dog owner is liable if the injury occurred because the dog owner was unreasonably careless (negligent) in controlling the dog.
In most states, dog owners are not liable to trespassers who are injured by a dog. A dog owner who is legally responsible for an injury to a person or property may be responsible for reimbursing the injured person for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and property damage.

“Although some people purchase dogs for the purpose of guarding their homes, deadbolt locks and home security systems are proven burglary deterrents and that will often earn you a discount on your insurance premium,” said Worters.

AIA Commends Rhode Island Legislature's Actions

The Rhode Island General Assembly adjourned its 2008 legislative session without passing any adverse auto body repair legislation, concluding the legislative session on a positive note for the property/casualty insurance industry, according to the American Insurance Association (AIA).

“AIA commends the General Assembly for its actions this session,” said Laura Kersey, AIA Northeast Region Assistant Vice President. “The outcome is a victory for AIA and the other members of the Rhode Island Automobile Insurers Coalition.”

The industry was successful in defeating a number of proposals that would have had a negative impact on consumers and insurers, including bills that would have interfered with an insurer's concierge service, required insurer appraisals of all vehicles with damage over $1500, and prohibited insurers from having any ownership interest in a repair facility.

Also defeated were bills that would have increased insurer physical damage loss costs by requiring insurers to pay a 7% sales tax on a total loss vehicle, and requiring insurers to have the title of vehicles determined to be a total loss stamped "for salvage parts only".

“We feel strongly that the decisions made by the General Assembly this session will ultimately benefit consumers throughout the state,” said Kersey. “We are pleased with the outcome of the session and are fully aware that auto body issues will continue to dominate insurance industry issues next session. To that end, we look forward to further educating consumers and lawmakers about the impact onerous legislation would have on the state of Rhode Island and its policyholders,” concluded Kersey.

Less Driving Can Lead to Smaller Premiums in Ohio

As gas prices hover around $4 a gallon across the state, many Ohioans are driving less, using public transportation or car pooling to get to work. Ohio Department of Insurance Director Mary Jo Hudson is encouraging Ohioans to tell their insurance agents if they are using their cars less, as it may result in a decrease in their auto insurance premiums.

“How much a person drives their car is one of the key factors insurance companies use to determine auto premiums,” said Hudson. “Changing your car’s designation from ‘work’ to ‘pleasure’ could result in a lower premium.”

Most insurance companies divide drivers into three categories: pleasure drivers, those who drive 15 miles or less one way to work and those who drive 15 miles or more one way to work. Drivers who drive as part of a carpool may be eligible for pleasure driver status if they drive less than two days a week or two weeks in a five week period. Also, Ohioans who have recently moved closer to their jobs or have switched jobs to a location closer to their home may also be eligible for lower premiums.

A change in designation could save a driver anywhere from 5-15% depending on the insurance company.

CNA Upgrades BPL, E&O Coverages

CNA announced enhancements to policy forms for its Bankers Professional Liability (BPL) and Insurance Company E&O (Errors & Omissions) Solutions coverages.

The enhanced policies include many of the most up-to-date coverages available in the marketplace including modernized forms, broad Professional Services definitions, and changes to terms and exclusions.

The new BPL and monoline Insurance Company E&O Solutions policy forms provide a sophisticated professional liability approach to banking institutions and insurance companies,Both include contemporary language and updated terms and conditions that have been drafted as stand-alone contracts all designed to better serve the needs of our Financial Institution brokers and their customers.
said Tom Kocaj, vice president of Underwriting, CNA.

For both coverages CNA offers limits up to $15 million. The BPL is targeted to banks with $1 billion or more in assets; while Insurance Company E&O Solutions is targeted to all insurance companies other than managed care providers and title insurance companies.

For additional information, call your local agent or visit the Professional Liability - Errors and Omissions page found in the Our Products section of www.cnapro.com.

ICW Group Makes Available New DIC Program

ICW Group (www.icwgroup.com) announced a new program offering for homeowner's associations and multi-family condos that provides expanded coverage for buildings of wood frame construction built after 1975. The new DIC Program is exclusively being offered through ICW Group's member companies and is currently not available from other carriers.

"As first to market with this enhanced program, we recognized the need to provide our wholesale broker partners with an opportunity to better serve their Condo/HOA clients," said Kim Anthony, assistant vice president of DIC. "With this specialized program, their clients can now secure more comprehensive protection."

The enhanced Condo/HOA program expands building definitions to include foundations, ground floor and subterranean parking, unit-owners' permanent fixtures, and coverage for maintenance fees and association dues up to the requested limit. The program also provides automatic coverage for underground utilities, electronic and computer equipment, valuable papers and records, architectural and engineering costs, and additional security. Optional coverages are available for additional property and appurtenant structures, such as fences, gates, and pools.

ICW Group has a capacity of up to $20 million in California Zone B and $30 million in all other areas and is an admitted carrier in 50 states. ICW Group will consider deductibles of 5% in California and as low as 2% in all other states based on the risk characteristics. ICW Group provides the DIC market with flexible program options ensuring superior coverage.

Nationwide Proposes Single Flood, Wind Policy

Nationwide Insurance is proposing the creation of an innovative, consumer-friendly homeowners insurance offering that would avoid disputes over wind/water issues for policyholders across the country.

Authorized and regulated by the federal government, the proposed Enhanced Homeowners Insurance Policy would combine the wind insurance coverage of a traditional homeowner policy with flood insurance coverage similar to that now offered by the National Flood Insurance Program into one home insurance policy. Under the proposed coverage, the private insurance market would bear the primary responsibility of paying claims, with the federal government acting as a reinsurer and regulator.

Americans need not suffer through a catastrophic event lacking the comprehensive insurance coverage they need, said Jerry Jurgensen, Nationwide CEO. If Hurricane Katrina taught us anything, it is that the market needs a home insurance product that covers flooding as well as wind damage in one policy.

If authorized by Congress, those who purchase the new home insurance product would be assured that no matter how their home may be damaged, coverage for wind and water would be available in one policy.

Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, thousands of lawsuits were filed against insurance companies challenging long-held homeowner policy provisions that exclude flood damage as a covered loss. Even though the courts have upheld the flood exclusion provisions as legal, Nationwide engaged in conversations with a variety of stakeholders to find a market-driven solution to the flood/wind problem and to propose a product that would meet customer needs.

This solution will need the support of the federal government to be implemented, Jurgensen said. For the benefit of all, Congress should begin the process to make this new coverage option available as quickly as possible.

The enhanced homeowner insurance policy would fold flood coverage into a new, augmented homeowners policy that insurers can voluntarily sell and homeowners can voluntarily purchase. Neither would be mandatory. The enhanced policy would be regulated by the U.S. Treasury Department, which would also reinsure the flood portion to make sure that coverage was financially feasible.

The enhanced policy would be an option that would increase both customer choice and customer confidence.

The new enhanced policy would be an additional option for customers to consider as they make key decisions to protect their home. Existing coverage options would also be available. Consumers would still be able to purchase a policy that does not cover flood damage, or a stand-alone policy from the federal flood program. However, for homeowners who desire comprehensive coverage in one policy, this policy would provide it for them.

Nationwide said it continues to support an open dialogue with policymakers to develop market-driven solutions that will give customers, carriers and regulators greater peace of mind when the next storm strikes.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Washington Fines Insurers More Than $490K

Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler has issued more than $490,000 in fines over the last three months to insurance companies that reportedly don’t play by the rules.

Mega Life and Health Insurance Company was fined $150,000 for issuing coverage to three groups using policy forms that did not comply with Washington state law. One form had been disapproved by the Insurance Commissioner and one form had never been filed. These policies also were issued as blanket coverage to groups that did not qualify for such coverage.

Delaware-based AMT Service Corporation also received a hefty fine of $100,000, with half of that suspended, for not registering with the state before it began selling service contracts in Washington state.

The following companies also were fined by the Insurance Commissioner:

  • On April 1, Safeco and four of its affiliates were fined $27,000, with half suspended subject to the successful completion of a compliance plan, for several late and inaccurate special liability reports, and one inaccurate annual statement.
  • On April 2, Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center was fined $22,650 for inaccurately issuing gift annuities in the name of its foundation.
  • On April 4, Great Republic Life Insurance Company was fined $5,000, with $4,500 suspended, for failing to file its audited financial statement for 2006.
  • On May 1, WELS Foundation was fined $20,000 with $11,000 suspended, for filing its 2005 annual statement almost a year after the deadline, and failing to maintain a reserve fund specific to Washington annuities.
  • On May 16, United Healthcare was fined $50,000 for denying Medicare supplemental coverage.
  • On May 20, Farmers New World Life Insurance Company was fined $10,000 for paying an “extraordinary shareholder dividend” without prior approval.
  • On June 3, American International and its affiliates were fined $50,000, with $20,000 suspended, for several violations including not clearly identifying its legal name, not filing with the Insurance Commissioner’s Office, and for issues related to its agents.
  • On June 3, AIG and its affiliates were fined $50,000, with $15,000 suspended, for a variety of issues including not clearly identifying its legal name and sending insufficient information to consumers.
  • Saddleback Memorial Foundation, Linfield College and Virginia Mason each received a fine of $1,000 to $2,000 for not maintaining a sufficient surplus for their gift annuity programs.
  • The Omaha Home for Boys and the Christian Children’s Fund each were fined $1,000 for not meeting reporting requirements.
  • International Planned Parenthood Federation was fined $425 for issuing one annuity before it received its certificate of exemption.

In addition to levying fines, the Insurance Commissioner has the authority to revoke licenses to sell insurance in Washington state. The following companies and independent agents and brokers have had their licenses suspended since March:

  • Bnai Brith Foundation of the U.S. in Washington, D.C. for failing to maintain the required surplus.
  • Olympic Memorial Hospital Foundation in Port Angeles for not providing information about its financial situation.
  • Lutheran Bible Institute of Seattle, based in Issaquah, for not meeting financial requirements.
  • Spokane United Methodist Homes for not meeting financial requirements.
  • Jonathan E. Kruse of Oak Harbor misrepresented policy information and forged customers’ signatures on applications. He has voluntarily surrendered his license.
  • Shelby M. King of Puyallup had her license revoked because she was convicted of an unrelated felony.

Fines collected by the Insurance Commissioner go into the state’s general fund and are used to fund a variety of programs that other state agencies provide for Washington residents. The agency already has collected more than $375,000 in enforcement fines in 2008.

Landslide Trial Kicks Off; 10 Died, Homes Destroyed

The trial for a January 2005 California landslide that killed 10 people kicked off Monday in Ventura County Superior Court. A number of La Conchita residents, along with relatives of those injured or killed, sued the county and the La Conchita Ranch Co.

One lawyer began the trial on Monday by arguing that an orchard on a bluff located above the homes triggered the landslide. A defense attorney for the orchard owner, however, claimed the area already had a history of deadly landslides dating back more than 100 years ago.

Those behind the lawsuit claim the county and company could have prevented the landslide that not only killed and injured people, but destroyed 13 homes and damaged nearly two dozen more.

The lawsuit claims that the ranch saturated its orchards and did not construct an adequate drainage system, therefore leading to the slide.

Earlier this year, a judge ruled Ventura County could be sued only for property damages and was not liable for the deaths in 2005.


When a 1995 slide destroyed or damaged seven homes, Ventura County declared La Conchita a "geological hazard area," issuing warning signs for the area.

A 1995 homeowner lawsuit against the orchard for that particular slide settled that case out of court.

La. Legislature Adjourns; Passes Some Proposals

The Louisiana Legislature has adjourned after passing several proposals affecting the property/casualty insurance industry, according to the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies. The adjournment followed a weekend of frenzied activity for lawmakers.

On Sunday, the Legislature sent Gov. Bobby Jindal SB 160, a bill to modernize the insurance marketplace by allowing companies to implement 'named storm’ deductibles that vary by geographic territory. The bill limits the amount of the increase in a total deductible to not more than 4 percent of the value of the property being insured.

“This legislation is a victory for insurance consumers and carriers, alike,” said Liz Reynolds, NAMIC Southeast state affairs manager. “It brings Louisiana in line with every other state by providing flexibility for insurers and, as a result, expanding choices for consumers. It’s a win-win for all.”

Another bill, HB 1312, increases the minimum amounts drivers must pay for auto liability coverage for property damage and injuries or deaths of other persons. The current limits are $10,000 for property damage and the death or injury of one person and $20,000 for multiple deaths or injuries. The new legislation raises those limits to $25,000 for property damage, $15,000 for the death or injury of one person, and $30,000 for the death or injury of more than one person.

Last year, a similar bill but with higher limits was vetoed at NAMIC’s request. “Evidently, the Legislature believes strongly that it is necessary to raise these limits, despite the fact that rates are likely to increase,” Reynolds commented.

Additional bills passed by the Legislature include the following:

* SB 308 provides for a pre-trial hearing regarding the qualifications and admissibility of expert witness testimony, and extends the deadline for filing expert witness disclosures. “Louisiana does not have uniform application of standards for expert testimony and methodologies used in court cases,” Reynolds pointed out. “This often leads to testimony from unqualified ‘experts’ and the use of evidence that is unreliable.” Passage of SB 308 will create a uniform procedure for qualifying and excluding expert witnesses and methodologies in court cases. It is similar to statutes recently passed in Georgia, Mississippi, and Michigan, and follows model legislation by the American Legislative Exchange Council.

* SB 44 provides a new round of matching grants to qualified insurance companies that write new property insurance policies to encourage the depopulation of Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state’s insurer of last resort. “This legislation will foster additional insurance competition, leading to more choices for consumers,” Reynolds noted. “We commend the Legislature for passing legislation that will lead to overall a better insurance market in the state.”