Originally published by Florida Politics | View Story
By Peter Schorsch
As the lawsuits pile up, property insurance rates increase.
If Helen of Troy is the face that launched 1,000 ships, we can call South Florida attorneys Kevin Weisser and Anthony Lopez the lawyers that launched 1,000 lawsuits — and counting.
It is only mid-April and already Florida is on track for a record-setting year of property insurance lawsuits. Lawyers filed nearly 24,000 property insurance lawsuits in the first quarter of 2021, putting the state on pace for almost 100,000 lawsuits by year’s end.
In pushing for property insurance reform this Session, Sens. Jim Boyd and Jeff Brandes have made litigation abuse the crux of their argument. Lawmakers and advocacy groups often resort to hyperbole to advance their favored bills, but the data reinforces their compelling case.
Florida Politics recently told you about a new Office of Insurance Regulation report stating that Florida accounted for over 76% of all homeowners’ litigation in the country in 2019, the latest year data was available.
We have previously reported on the case of attorney Scot Strems, one of the state’s most prodigious filers of homeowners’ litigation cases. Strems currently awaits a Florida Supreme Court ruling on the status of his suspension by the Florida Bar for fraudulent homeowners’ litigation and other violations.
With Strems sidelined, who is responsible for the continued flood of homeowners’ insurance lawsuits?
According to data from the Department of Financial Services’ Service of Process website, reviewed by Florida Politics for the months of January through March 2021, 22 attorneys and 3 administrative assistants filed over 200 lawsuits each. 15 filed more than 300 each. 8 filed over 400 lawsuits each. And two, Weisser and Lopez, filed over 1,000 each. In three months.
Lopez stands out from the rest as the chairman of the Consumer Protection Alliance PC, which has donated over $500,000 to elected officials in Tallahassee, political committees, and party campaign arms since 2019. He was even able to raise $50,000 from none other than Scot Strems.
Lopez’s firm files so many homeowners’ insurance lawsuits that in November 2020, Florida’s 13th Judicial Circuit to consolidate all its related cases in the circuit within 30 days. At the time, the firm had 139 cases in just that circuit alone.
Floridians who need legitimate legal help should have access to it. And I certainly respect hard work and hustle.
But with lawyers like Weisser and Lopez already filing 1,000 lawsuits in just the opening 90 days of 2021, it seems the opponents of litigation reform with respect to homeowners’ insurance doth protest too much. As the lawsuits pile up, so too do the losses for insurance companies — over $1.6 billion last year — and rates paid by homeowners across Florida.
Eventually, something must give. All too often, it is homeowners getting hit with unaffordable rates for less coverage. Florida leads the nation in homeowners’ insurance lawsuits by far. It is also the most expensive state for homeowners’ insurance and getting more expensive by the day.
All we know for certain is this — with nearly 100,000 lawsuits expected this year, we are all going to be paying a whole lot more to keep the roofs over our heads unless the Legislature delivers some property insurance reform.