The report shows that, since 2009, 23,510 lawsuits were filed against the company and, since 2010, only 42 of those cases have made it to trial.
Of the small fraction of cases that made it to trial, Citizens won 59 percent. Of the cases in which the court ruled in favor of the policyholders, 10 percent were for amounts less than what the policyholder wanted.
The analysis does not take into account the number of cases Citizens agreed to settle after years of litigation.
Citizen’s General Counsel Dan Sumner said the goal of the report was not to determine the cause of the spike in lawsuits but to provide a comprehensive look at the trends.
Citizens lost one of the biggest cases in its history last week — a $15 million award for a 2008 sinkhole claim filed by Windtree Apartments in Tampa. Documents show that Citizens could be responsible for more than $800,000 in legal fees because the company spent so much time fighting the case.
The main focus of Citizens’ litigation analysis is to highlight what the company perceives is a growing threat from Miami-based law firms against the company.
“We want to pay every dime that we owe and we want to pay it as rapidly as we can,” Gilway said last week. “That’s the fundamental premise that we operate under. However, we should not pay any more than what we owe.”
But lawyers representing many policyholders say that Citizens has cut its claims staff, tells policyholders a claim is covered and then ignores a claim for months or years and, when they get sued, deny liability.
“If you have 40 percent of the market, and you cut your claims staff and tell lawyers to spend years to defend payment to claims, you are going to get sued — a lot, and it’s your fault,” Corless said, noting that Citizens frequently switches law firms in the middle of a case, further delaying it, as lawyers rack up attorneys fees before claims are paid.
Gilway said the company is working to change the way it handles its litigation and is focusing on improving the quality of its defense counsel and accelerating resolutions.
“There were performance issues on the part of defense counsel,’’ Gilway said. “They weren’t getting adequately prepared for trial. If they weren’t applying a consistent standard, a Citizens standard, for claims management, then that was an issue. It was a significant issue.”
The report does not provide any details on the number of cases settled versus those that went to trial.
Mary Ellen Klas can be reached at meklas@MiamiHerald.com and on Twitter @MaryEllenKlas