A jury awarded $766,258.06 to Florida policyholder Raymond N. Roddy who lost his home in a house fire. Mr. Roddy prevailed again this week when 4th District Court of Appeals found no error and ended People Trust Insurance Company’s appeal. The Court found harmless error at the trial level and People’s Trust’s last ditch delay tactic has ended for one policyholder.
Merlin Law Group has handled similar matters like the case of Mr. Roddy against this very same insurance company. We have learned some very interesting information about People’s Trust through talking with policyholders, via the discovery process of litigation, and courtesy of the company’s own marketing attempts.
A full recap and discussion of the Roddy court opinion will be the topic in an upcoming blog (if you just can’t wait, here is a link to the opinion). But before we get into further court battle details, it is important to understand some background information on People’s Trust.
If you have a home in Florida, chances are you are on Michael Gold’s mailing list for over the top, glossy marketing materials for his insurance company, People’s Trust. Michael Gold is the Chairman and CEO of People’s Trust but insurance has not been his life’s work, in fact, he had no insurance experience when he started the company in 2008.1 Gold decided to go into insurance after getting an expensive insurance premium notice. High property insurance premiums in Florida is something that most of us detest but how he has modeled his business is a not a solution to Florida’s insurance problems. In fact, it has made a whole new variety of problems. How this company operates is not only unorthodox but it is also outrageous.
Let’s start first with background on Mr. Gold.
According to FloridaTrend.com, Mr. Gold retired and moved to Florida in 1997. Mr. Gold’s background is in office automation company product business. Critics have written that not only did Gold not have any experience with insurance but that he hired people with little to no insurance experience to run the company.2
Gold’s business model is not to pay out building structure claims, instead, he wants policyholders to be required to use his repair company to “fix” the problem. Funny thing is, in the mailers many of you have received from People’s Trust, the large, bright, and shiny paragraphs never mention or even allude to the Preferred Contractor Endorsement Form, E023… you can only see this if you read the fine print.
You see, Mr. Gold owns this affiliated company named Rapid Response Team and while the word "Preferred" would lead some to think there was a choice of several qualified contractors an insured could use who qualify with People Trust, sadly, that is not the case. People’s Trust website explains that Rapid Response Team can fix your damage. The website also states that this company with its statewide warehouses will be dispatched to repair your home after a loss, but what their marketing documents don’t state is that a Rapid Response Team fix may be the only option you are given and the scope will be limited to only what Rapid Response Team deems necessary. The ads also don’t mention that their "fast claim service" doesn’t include a licensed insurance adjuster stepping foot on your property! But these have all been our clients’ experiences.
Gold’s almost poster-sized mailing boasts that the company has “the best claims service,” specifically saying they are the industry’s most responsive claim service… but all without sending an adjuster? Now, People’s Trust does send someone to your property but if that person is a construction worker how can they possibly be providing insurance claims service. Make no mistake, some of these workers may not be licensed but that doesn’t stop them from interrogating you, "dropping" in on your place of employment, or chatting up your neighbors about the claim.
Rapid Response Team and People’s Trust are not the only companies Mr. Gold owns, when the State of Florida looked into his business practices and suspended the company for doing business without licensed agents, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation also required him to obtain more re-insurance. In response, Gold opened his own reinsurance company.
When policyholders have a claim and Rapid Response Team comes into fix the damage, People’s Trust makes the policyholders pay the deductible before the work gets started. Short on cash? No worries, Mr. Gold has a company that finances deductibles. Good night, should Floridians being paying interest charges on a deductible when the company is coming into your house and fixing the property its way with its sole contractor company? Should they even be paying a deductible at all? This is outrageous!
Homeowners who have a claim with People’s Trust should require a licensed insurance adjuster come to the property and should be very cautious before signing or agreeing to allow Rapid Response Team to start work. Many of the policies and claims we have viewed do not technically require a homeowner to be forced to repair with Rapid Response Team, but the policy does require payment to the insureds under the loss payment provision. Many unknowing or trusting policyholders who are facing a difficult situation with their house in shambles don’t question this company until the work gets started or the denial comes in the mail, but even then you often have more rights and options if you seek representation.
With a name like People’s Trust and a CEO made of gold, it is insulting that this company will liter your mailbox with ads and hope to reel you in, thinking you are covered and saving money, but this product has shown time and time again to be a far cry from insurance. Do the homeowners buying this insurance understand what People’s Trust is trying to sell? The company is getting rich off of unsuspecting folks who think they have great, discount insurance, but when the policy doesn’t protect them when they have a loss is equivalent to a band aid on a bullet wound.
Check out People’s track record in prior posts: Insurance Company Complaint Rankings for 2010 Have Been Released; Talk About Insurance Fraud—How About Recent Conduct by Some Insurance Agents? and stay tuned for future blogs on PTIC’s denial of fire cases, consent order drama, and of course, more details on the Raymond N. Roddy released opinion.
1 According to the Sarasota Herald.