Citizens insurance settles suit for $950K
Published: Monday, January 22, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 21, 2007 at 11:05 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE — Florida's state-created insurer of last resort will pay almost $1 million to settle a lawsuit that alleged a former executive took bribes to steer business to adjusters.
Citizens Property Insurance Corp. acknowledged no wrongdoing Friday when it agreed to pay $950,000 to Houston-based Universal Risk Insurance Services to settle the suit, which stemmed from claims from the devastating 2004 hurricane season.
Universal alleged that it was fired in 2004 because it did not make payments to then-Citizens Chief Operating Officer R. Paul Hulsebusch. The company claimed it had learned Hulsebusch accepted at least $25,000 in goods as a bribe from an another adjuster who then won a contract to handle claims for Citizens.
Hulsebusch resigned shortly after the allegations were made in September 2005. He has not been charged with a crime. He did not return a phone message left Sunday at his Pennsylvania home by The Associated Press.
Perry Cone, Citizens' general counsel, said it was less expensive to settle the case than to continue fighting in court. Universal sought $4.6 million in damages.
"We just don't have enough information now to know definitively whether wrongdoing by others did or did not occur," Cone said. The company said it may seek damages if criminal charges are ever brought in the case.
Citizens spokesman Rocky Scott said Universal's adjusting contract was taken away from the company because it was unable to adequately handle claims given to it during the 2004 storms. Universal executives did not return a phone message left at their headquarters Sunday.
Citizens was created by the state Legislature in 2002 to sell property insurance policies to people who can't get coverage in the open marketplace because of high hurricane risks.
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