A younger attorney recently asked me who I considered was the first property insurance attorney representing policyholders on a regular basis in Florida. Maurice Rosen came to mind. I met Rosen while I was still working as a very young attorney insurance defense attorney with Paul B. Butler & Associates in 1983.

Maurice Rosen worked on a number of cases where clients of public adjuster Hank Brodsky had legal issues. I called and spoke about Maurice Rosen with Hank’s son, Allan Brodsky, who continues the family public adjusting business.

When I started my own policyholder practice in 1985, Maurice was very pleasant and sharing in his knowledge to me. This was a time before cell phones or email. Facsimile exchange of information was just beginning. We exchanged complaints and briefs and discussed issues of the day which often were of arson cases since insurance companies were finding that a substantial number of fires were caused by arson. Many of those 1980s methods and evidence of arson were later found to be junk science and not possible under laws of physics.

Maurice Rosen had a particular reported case I will always recall because his public adjuster client established the first priority of a lien on insurance proceeds to an alleged fraudulent robbery of jewelry in Matter of Armando Gerstel, Inc., 43 B.R. 925 (1984).

The bankruptcy court had to determine priority of liens of the policyholder who declared bankruptcy and the assets were the $1.5 million of the insurance settlement. Regarding the public adjusters’ lien, the public adjuster had an assignment of 10% of the insurance proceeds in the contract with the jeweler. The court noted:

Adjustors likewise claims a charging lien upon the settlement proceeds. Adjustors was retained on July 24, 1981, the day after the robbery, to help prepare the proof of loss, pursuant to a written agreement of that date, and on August 9, 1983 it filed a “Notice of Charging Lien” in the state court action. There is, however, no statutory nor common law authority for such a lien. Accordingly it is unenforceable.

All is not lost for Adjustors, however. Although the Court holds that its claimed lien was uneffectual, the agreement between Adjustors and Gerstel was nonetheless effective as an absolute assignment of a portion of Gerstel’s claim against Jewelers.

As to the dates of notice to Jewelers, the evidence is clear as to some of the assignees but not as to others. Adjustors is the earliest, with notice given on October 5, 1981 via a letter to the company adjusting the loss for Jewelers.

Public adjusters today have many more statutory and regulatory requirements in Florida regarding their insurance contracts. We publish a Merlin Guide for Florida Public Adjusters which contains these requirements. You can obtain it by emailing Ruck DeMinico.

Thought For The Day

Professor Johnston often said that if you didn’t know history, you didn’t know anything. You were a leaf that didn’t know it was part of a tree.
—Michael Crichton