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Sarasota-Manatee
Business Observer Monday, Feb. 11, 2013 7 years ago

Jury orders FCCI to pay $6 million

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A Broward County jury ruled against the insurance company in case where it denied a claim.

SARASOTA — A jury in Broward County has ordered FCCI Insurance Group to pay $6 million in damages to Debra Peters, a plaintiff in a case involving a denied claim.

Peters sued FCCI after the company denied her business's insurance claim for Hurricane Wilma in 2005 and then attempted to bring criminal charges against her for filing a fraudulent claim, a release from Peters' attorneys says.

Peters' attorneys alleged in the case that FCCI breached its contract by denying Peters' claim for her business, a high-end furniture and cabinet company she ran with her husband, Ronald. The attorneys also allege that FCCI attempted to maliciously prosecute Peters by filing false and incomplete information with the Florida Department of Insurance.

The Broward County State Attorney's Office dropped the charges against Debra Peters, but she testified that the ordeal took a toll on her and her family, prompting the suit.

On Feb. 6, the six-member jury ruled in Peters' favor, and ordered FCCI to pay $4.8 million in compensatory damages for malicious prosecution and $1.2 million in punitive damages.

FCCI Chief Risk and Compliance Officer Cina Welch says the company is considering appealing the verdict, but has not made a decision yet. “While we are obviously disappointed in the outcome of the case, we have faith in the judicial system,” Welch tells the Business Observer. “We are weighing all our options at this point, and appeal is certainly one of them.”

Welch says FCCI has always been committed to settling claims fairly and ethically, and that will continue to be its focus.

Peters' attorneys say the Peters family was able to borrow money from friends to fix the building they owned that housed their business, but they were not able to replace the equipment needed to continue operating. The building is now leased to another firm.

FCCI is one of the largest commercial property and casualty insurance underwriters on the Gulf Coast, with revenues of more than $500 million in 2011. The company is in expansion mode, and opened offices in Maryland and Dallas in 2012.

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