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Imagine filing a claim with your insurance company for hurricane damage and, months later, not only is your home not fixed, but you get served with a lawsuit by your insurance company.

Dozens of South Florida customers of Deerfield Beach-based People’s Trust Insurance are finding themselves in an unlikely and possibly unprecedented position — they’re being sued by their insurer.

Since July 1, People’s Trust has filed at least 242 lawsuits against its policyholders in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, according to court records. Of those, 161 have been filed since Nov. 17, a day after the Sun Sentinel first reported the strategy.

The new suits include 113 against the company’s customers in Miami-Dade, 38 in Broward and 10 in Palm Beach County.

Attorneys for some of the defendants accuse the company of using the suits to bully their clients into accepting subpar repairs — and punish them for securing help from lawyers and independent public adjusters.

When People’s Trust decides to sue a customer, it’s intimidating, especially for people who have never been involved in a suit, said Anthony Lopez, a Coconut Grove-based attorney who specializes in insurance litigation.

Anthony Tinelli, a Miami attorney who formerly worked as a defense attorney for People’s Trust, said he’s representing seven Hurricane Irma victims who were recently sued by the company. “For one insurance company to sue its homeowners to that extent is unprecedented,” he said.

Another Miami-based attorney, Rafael Alonso, attributed the recent surge in lawsuits by the company to disputes over Hurricane Irma claims. “I’ve never seen an insurance company, especially after a natural disaster, suing its insureds,” he said.

People’s Trust says the attorneys and public adjusters generate disputes by preventing the company from sending its affiliated repair contractor — Rapid Response Team — to fix customers’ homes, as the customers agreed to allow when they signed up with the insurer. In exchange, policyholders were given a discount off their premiums, usually totaling $200 or less, the suits state.

People’s Trust and Rapid Response Team are both among a suite of related companies owned by entrepreneur George W. Schaeffer.

Please read the full article below

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/business/fl-bz-peoples-trust-insurance-sues-100-more-customers-20180419-story.html

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