Scott Johnson, a P&C insurance expert, has been leading the charge in consumer education regarding a variety of insurance-related issues for many years, but especially in regard to the Assignment of Benefits (AOB) issue plaguing Florida.
Johnson’s new blog, Assignment of Benefits – The Worst Insurance Crisis Ever!, details some important information about this unfortunate growing trend. We urge you to post it on your social networks to encourage reform and continue to spread the word about how every Florida consumer ultimately pays for AOB fraud and abuse.
Opinion by Scott Johnson, Johnson Strategies, LLC
January 22, 2018
Florida’s House of Representatives just sent the Senate a meaningful AOB reform package (HB-7015 by Rep. Jay Trumbull); one the House had passed by a significant 82 to 20 margin.
The Senate, so far, particularly the Banking & Insurance Committee, hasn’t budged—delaying, and distracting from root causes with proposals that favor the abusers. Like last year, there hasn’t even been a hearing on the companion reform package by Senator Dorothy Hukill (SB-62).
Understandable then that the ranks of the disgruntled is growing. The latest from the Consumer Protection Coalition shows 85.1% of voters oppose 3rd party vendors suing insurers without the policyholder knowing and 65.9% want them to pay their own attorney fees. The media is solid on reforms and in addition to dozens of video expose’s, the Wall Street Journal has floated six nationwide editorials urging Florida Senators to give Senator Hukill’s bill a chance. “Not a chance” is the apparent response from committee chair, Miami attorney, Senator Anitere Flores.
So, the abusers continue to abuse. (See Note#1 below). Growth in AOB suits has risen by 90,000% since 2000. And, the OIR AOB report released just days ago shows the velocity of water losses has tripled in less than twelve (12) months.
By all accounts Assignment of Benefits is the worst insurance crisis of all time. Worse than PIP, worse than the ‘04/’05 storms, worse than medical malpractice, workers compensation, nursing homes, day care centers, et al. Indeed, if it were happening to any other line of business this crisis would’ve been solved because the carriers would’ve left the state. Florida’s property carriers are predominantly domestics with no place else to go. So, in addition to sending more business to Citizens, they reduce coverage, raise rates and implement managed repair plans.
And, the consumer beat downs are also worsening!
Senators listen up. In addition to all the AOB scams exposed in these pages over the last half dozen years, Irma spawned a new angle. The blue tarp angle.
Hear the nightmare faced by Sandra Carlstrom whose roof repair was $30,000 but whose insurer, thanks to AOB, was invoiced $191,000 by SFR roofing. (See Note# 2 below)
The Calstroms can’t make repairs, can’t live in their home and discovered too late that they can’t cancel the AOB they were tricked into signing—that is, unless they cough up thousands for a flimsy blue tarp that has long since shredded (and was already paid for). If they don’t pay another $15,000 more, or if they try to get out of the AOB, they could face a lawsuit or a lien and the potential of foreclosure.
Theresa Doherty also had roof damage. After her blue tarp incident, she filed complaints with DBPR (Department of Business & Professional Regulation) and the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and the DFS (Department of Financial Services) against Noland Roofing. (See Note# 3 below)
Despite the promise of “free estimates” Noland Roofing wants 20% of its’ estimate to release her from the AOB. And, despite two significantly lower estimates, her insurer can’t send her the check for repairs because the AOB allows only Noland’s name on the check. She already paid for her blue tarp and like the Calstroms it, too, has shredded. Also like the Calstroms, the Doherty’s can’t make repairs and face the potential of a lawsuit or a lien and, ultimately, foreclosure…
…. UNLESS THEY FORK OVER THE MONEY!
Of course, all are innocent until proven guilty and, as always, I will print any response to these allegations in their entirety, without editing. But…ladies and gentlemen, this isn’t how insurance is supposed to work. In fact, it isn’t about insurance or Irma or roof damage. This appears to be nothing but a good old fashioned mafioso-style shakedown of Florida policyholders.
That’s why I say this is the worst crisis ever. It’s also why the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) has just named Florida number one on its list of “Judicial Hellholes.” ATRA has been around for 16 years and Florida has been near the top but, now it is the worst in America. Why? AOB and “…an increasingly aggressive and sometime LAWLESS plaintiffs’ bar”.
This needs to stop.
My sincere prayer is that meaningful reforms are allowed a hearing in the Senate and that industry lobbyists accept nothing less than what’s already passed twice in the House.
The Doherty’s, the Calstroms, and all the others whose nightmares have played out on these pages or in television news programs, deserve nothing less.
NOTE #1: See an editorial published by the American Consumer Institute referencing the “cabal of lawyers” and citing Florida’s one-way attorney fee statute. Then see the list of the top plaintiff law firms and AOB Contractors as compiled by Caseglide for just last month, December 2017.
NOTE #2: The research and programming on the Calstrom affair and SFR Roofing was provided by Lisa Miller and Associates and distributed by The Consumer Protection Coalition. See SFR Roofing flyers here. See the roof damage to the Calstrom home here.
NOTE #3: See 2016 information provided by DBPR on Noland Roofing here. Read the Doherty’s entire complaint affidavit submitted to DBPR and BBB, as follows:
Complaint against Noland’s Roofing of Clermont, Greg Noland, owner, license number CCC057611. During Hurricane Irma our house had roof damage. Called Noland Roofing to tarp AND ONLY TO TARP the roof. The rain was imminent. Ronald Mercer, who claimed to be a representative of Noland Roofing, called us. He did not identify himself as a salesman instead spoke as an engineer. Later I discovered he was a salesman. He said he was very busy, had to move on to the next house, and we needed to hurry up with a decision. I asked that a tarp be put on the roof. I paid with my credit card $1000 for the tarp. In text messages with Mr. Mercer he said that he could not guarantee our place in line to get tarped unless we signed an AOB. He said it was not a roofing contract rather a consumer protection form by Florida legislation. He also said it was standard procedure. My ins. co. said we were to “do what was needed to prevent further damage”. I understood the AOB was designed to help insure the ins. co. would be held accountable. My husband and I signed it. I received a call from Chris Jakubowski of Noland Roofing saying he had a note from Mr. Mercer but it was sketchy and he was verifying what I wanted. I was very clear and repeated myself many times saying I only wanted the roof tarped and was not committing to hiring Nolands for the roof repair. I made clear that I needed to speak with my ins. co. and I wanted to get three est.s and that I told Mr. Mercer he could be one of the est.s. I have this in writing to Mr. Mercer in my text message history. Mr. Jakobowski was nice and continued to reassure me he understood. He took my credit card info and I received a receipt for the tarp charge stamped “paid.” I went ahead to get more estimates from 2 other local companies. After some time I received a check from the ins. co. with Noland’s roofing name, our name, and mort lender’s name. I contacted the ins. co., ASI. They said the AOB is invalid because the mortgage lender refused to sign it, but they had to honor the “direction of payment.” ASI said we have to get Noland Roofing to write a letter to the ins. co. releasing us from the direction of payment then they will reissue the check. Mr. Mercer refuses to do that claiming he wants 20% of the est. to get out of the contract claiming they had already put so much work into it. The Noland’s Roofing website clearly states Free Estimates. Mr. Mercer cannot charge for an estimate. We didn’t sign a roofing contract and Mr. Mercer said the AOB was just a consumer protection form. This is a scam. I called Mr. Jakobowski about this issue and said he would get back to me. He didn’t rather Mr. Mercer emailed me continuing the scam saying that we signed for the complete roofing claim. We did not. He had been sending letters and an est. to ASI without our knowledge. We did not receive these letters and est. as I instructed. We have emailed Mr. Steve Fortier, general manager of Noland Roofing, Dec. 22 asking to review more information including a contract. No response. We sent a certified letter to him Jan. 5. Noland Roofing signed for it Jan. 8. Still no response. We have discovered the tarping and/or installation was defective, ripped, and has come off the roof. I have video of pieces of the tarp flapping in the wind. A tarp after a hurricane declared disaster should last longer than that. I requested the documentation from ASI. The est. provided them without our knowledge charges ASI $1000 for the tarp. I already paid for that with my credit card. Noland roofing is committing fraud by charging ASI for the tarp. Noland’s Roofing est. is over $16,000. The other 2 estimates I got from roofing companies were approx. $9,000 and $11,000. Noland’s roofing is price gouging during the Hurricane Irma disaster. I am asking that Noland’s Roofing be investigated and ordered to write a letter to my ins. co. explaining that they were not hired to replace my roof only to put the tarp on.