Appeals court Allstate ruling an ‘error’

Apr 23, 2008

Florida Today--April 23, 2008

By Paul Flemming

At the end of an odd turn of events Monday the status quo held and Allstate agents were still selling insurance Tuesday, but it remains to be seen whether the mistaken release of a court order was a preview of what’s to come next week.

Monday’s released-then-pulled order denied Allstate’s appeals in its legal battle with state insurance regulators. The error was attributed Tuesday to a clerical error contrary to internal 1st District Court of Appeal procedures.

But does the foul-up point to the ultimate outcome of the appeal, now set for an April 29 decision?

The now-withdrawn 1st District Court of Appeal order rejected all of Allstate Floridians’ requests for a rehearing of its case against the Office of Insurance Regulation. If it had stood, OIR would have been free to bring down the hammer of sanctions that would put Allstate out of doing new business in the state.

Jon Wheeler, clerk of court for the 1st DCA, said Tuesday morning that Monday’s error was a matter of timing.

Wheeler issued a statement that said “the order was released prior to the ten business days provided in the court’s internal operating procedures” on motions for rehearing by the full 15-judge court.

But the request to have the full court rehear the case was only one of five issues raised by Allstate in the case. The withdrawn order said Allstate’s motions to file more information, to have the three-judge panel rehear it, to certify the case for the Florida Supreme Court to consider an appeal and to allow friend-of-the-court briefs were all rejected.

State regulators on Tuesday were circumspect about the matter. Ed Domansky, director of communications for the Office of Insurance Regulation, said he didn’t have much to say.

“It would be speculating to think or wonder if they would change their minds,” Domansky said. “There was an order yesterday that appeared to be very official looking except for it was released too soon.”

An Allstate spokeswoman said they’ll wait for the final order to come out.

“It is our understanding from the press release that the First District Court has until April 29th to issue its final ruling,” said Amy Moore for Allstate. “At this time it would be premature to speculate on the outcome before it is issued.”

In January, Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty sanctioned 10 Allstate affiliates because the company failed to respond to subpoenas in the state’s ongoing investigation of its rates, policy cancellations and business practices.Allstate officials say they are providing information to the state.