Trial lawyers offering input on Fla. insurance lawsuit

John O'Brien Dec. 26, 2007, 3:20pm

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Former Florida Attorney General and current Gov. Charlie Crist has hired three private attorneys to possibly pursue a lawsuit against property insurers.

Crist thinks the industry may not have complied with a new state law that provided it with cheaper reinsurance on the condition it passed on savings to consumers.

"I'm increasingly concerned they are potentially violating the new law," Crist said Dec. 19, according to the Bradenton Herald.

"Common sense would dictate to you that if they are not passing on the savings to the customer, they are violating the law that says they must pass on the savings to the customer."

The three attorneys are Roberto Martinez, Bob Hackleman and Dexter Douglass, two of whom have contributed to Crist. Crist says none are being paid for their work or earning a commission.

Martinez chaired Crist's transition team when Crist became governor and has donated $1,500 to Crist in the past --$500 for his 2006 Gubernatorial campaign and $1,000 for his 2002 Attorney General campaign.

In 2006, Hackleman gave $1,000 to Crist and $500 to Attorney General Bill McCollum, who has advised Crist's on the state's insurance situation. Hackleman works for Gunster, Yoakley & Stewart, which formerly employed Crist chief of staff George Lemeiux. Crist has hired a new chief of staff for next year.

The third attorney, Douglass, worked for the State in its suit against the tobacco companies in the 1990s.

"We paid out $37 billion in the eight hurricanes in 2004 and 2005 and as a result of that rates started going up and now we're accused of all kinds of things that are unfounded,'' Florida Insurance Council spokesman Sam Miller said, according to a report by The Associated Press. "We will defend ourselves in court if we have to and will be proven right.''

Subpoenas were issued to Allstate after it asked for a rate increase, the report added. The Office of Insurance Regulation denied it because it came after the company posted record profits.

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