Condo collapse and COVID court rulings among the best stories for 2021


The collapse of a condominium tower in the Miami area and efforts to achieve a just resolution for victims was the main story of the Claims Journal in 2021.

Readers were also keenly interested in court decisions involving litigation by policyholders seeking coverage for lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an insurer error that led to large compensation, claims involving expensive toys and a wave of ATM robberies.

The articles listed below were written by Claims Journal staff, selected based on readership interest, either for a single article or for a series of articles on the same topic. The best stories for 2021 were:

  1. Collapse of the condominium: Much of Champlain Towers South, a 12-story oceanfront condominium in Surfside, Florida, suddenly collapsed on June 24. The disaster killed 98 residents, while four survivors were removed from the rubble. Within days, the city revealed that an engineer who inspected the structure in 2018 reported major water damage with an estimated repair cost of $ 9 million. A Miami-Dade County judge began to question how to fairly compensate victims with the $ 48 million in insurance coverage available.
  2. Decisions Regarding COVID Claims: In 2021, more courts have rendered rulings on the hundreds of lawsuits brought by business owners against their insurers to recoup losses during times they have been forced to shut down to avoid the spread of the coronavirus. Most of the trial courts that handed down early rulings have ruled in favor of insurers who denied business interruption claims, but a few outlier decisions have drawn attention. As of last week, eight of 12 federal circuit appeal courts have issued rulings finding that SARS-CoV-2 does not cause physical loss or damage to insured property.
  3. The unforced error costs GEICO: GEICO Indemnity Co.’s refusal to pay $ 30,000 to settle a personal injury claim led to an April 19 decision from the Georgia Supreme Court https://www.claimsjournal.com/news/southeast/2021/04 /21/303270.htm which cost the carrier $ 2,763,742. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeal posed a series of certified questions which led the High Court to find that GEICO was liable under bad faith state law for the full amount of damages suffered by a cyclist who was struck by an insured motorist. GEICO had denied a request by the plaintiff’s lawyer for the entire policy limit of $ 30,000.
  4. Expensive toys: A federal appeals court ruled that GEICO was solely responsible for the replacement cost of a Lamborghini sports car of $ 100,000, but no coverage was due for a luxury yacht damaged by fire. A 1st Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled on Jan. 13 that GEICO could not force another carrier who assured the driver who crashed into the Lamborghini to intervene because he had properly canceled the policy after the owners failed. did not report that they had moved the car to another state. Another panel from the 1st Circuit ruled on Jan. 19 that the owner of a 48-foot yacht that caught fire while anchored off the coast of Florida had no coverage for damage as he failed. had not disclosed a previous accident on his insurance claim.
  5. Shattering ATMs: Earlier this year, insurers sounded the alarm about a growing number of robberies from ATMs, where criminals steal heavy equipment to rip machines out of their cases. The Texas Bankers Association has reported that Houston has become a hotbed for such crimes.
  6. Racism and dog bites: Activists persuaded the state legislatures of Nevada and New York to pass laws requiring insurers to cancel policies that exclude or charge higher premiums to owners of specific dog breeds, such as pit bulls, which have an increased risk of bite. Animal Farm Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit, says assumptions about dog bite risks are often based on racial stereotypes. Insurers opposed the new laws.
  7. Expensive to repair: The increasing sophistication of modern automobiles and the pressure from insurers to repair them as cheaply as possible is causing friction between carriers and auto repair shops. Experts have reported that advanced driver assistance systems increase the complexity of repairs, but insurance claims services are not keeping up with the time and cost demanded by new technology.
  8. Not-so-independent entrepreneurs: The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on April 29 ruled that California may enforce a new labor law that imposes new employment practices and workers’ compensation responsibilities on trucking companies and their insurance companies. The appeals court panel overturned a decision by a federal judge in San Diego that temporarily barred the state from enforcing the provisions of Assembly Bill 5.
  9. Fund other people’s lawsuits: The litigation finance industry is growing rapidly, prompting lawyers defending insurance companies to demand more disclosure in order to guard against conflicts of interest or breaches of solicitor-client privilege. Insurers fear that third-party investments in lawsuits will increase the number of frivolous lawsuits and encourage plaintiffs to go to trial rather than settle their cases.
  10. Angry juries: Law firm Tyson & Mendes described a personal injury case in Washington state that led to a $ 91 million jury prize against a gas station / convenience store chain accused of failing to protect a client against assault in a high crime area. Lawyers for the firm said the number of “nuclear verdicts” is increasing because lawyers for plaintiffs have learned to play on jurors’ emotions, especially anger.About Photo: This aerial photo shows part of the 12-story oceanfront Champlain Towers South condo that collapsed early Thursday, June 24, 2021 in Surfside, Fla. (Amy Beth Bennett / South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

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