Court favors adjuster accused of gouging on hurricane claims

Aug 18, 2011

The following article was published in the South Florida Business Journal on August 18, 2011:

Court favors adjuster accused of gouging on hurricane claims

Miami-Dade Circuit Court has shot down attempts to form a class action against a North Bay Village-based public adjuster accused of overcharging on supplemental hurricane claims.

The recent ruling states that the class action filed against Ameriloss Public Adjusting Corp. would be unmanageable based, in part, on the uniqueness of the cases of each purported member.

Richard Wolfe, counsel for AmeriLoss, noted that the ruling means conflicting rules won’t negatively impact the industry.

“The department had passed conflicting rules, governing public adjusting firms and had issued inconsistent declaratory statements following the growth of the industry following Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Jeanne, Ivan, Dennis, Katrina, Rita and Wilma,” he said.

The suit alleged Ameriloss sought fees of 33.5 percent for adjusting a claim by Clyde Lightbourn related to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when state law limited fees to 10 percent.

Lightbourn attorney Lance Harke, of Harke & Clasby in Miami, has said his client argued with Ameriloss about the fee, but the company insisted a third was the “standard” amount, and Lightbourn was desperate to get additional money for needed repairs.

Lightbourn had received a favorable declaratory statement from the Florida Department of Financial Services dated Jan. 13 that said “the public adjusting firm [Ameriloss] could not properly charge a fee in excess of 10 percent under the specific facts of this case.”

Lightbourn filed a claim soon after Katrina and received $12,285. He later found additional damage and decided to pursue a larger claim, signing a contract with Ameriloss to adjust the claim in 2007. His contract said he would pay a 33.5 percent fee.

But, a state law passed in 2006 requires that insurance adjusters limit their fees to 10 percent for claims stemming from official states of emergency.

Lightbourn received two supplemental insurance payments based on his Ameriloss-adjusted claims of $22,062 and $20,903, for a total insurance payout of $55,250, according to his petition to the Department of Financial Services. Ameriloss deducted a fee of $7,354 from the first supplemental payment, which already totaled 12.9 percent of the total payout. The adjuster then asserted a claim for an additional $6,960.

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