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CFO’s office back in court over insurance benefits case

Life insurers will be in court Monday in their lawsuit against the Department of Financial Services over a law requiring them to track down insurance beneficiaries.

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis is set to hear argument in the Leon County Courthouse about their request to cancel planned depositions of their employees, which they call “burdensome, harassing and irrelevant.”

The department has countered it needs the testimony to show that the statute in question “responds to serious and widespread wrongs” because the companies “ignored their obligations under prior law.”

The law, which is retroactive, requires life insurance companies to check every year on which policyholders have died, then they must track down the beneficiaries. The measure, passed last year, was a priority of former Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and was featured on CBS’ “60 Minutes.”

If beneficiaries can’t be found, the insurance proceeds must be turned over to the state as unclaimed property. The bill passed both chambers of the Legislature unanimously and was signed by Gov. Rick Scott. 

The plaintiffs — United Insurance Co. of America, Reliable Life Insurance Co., Mutual Savings Life Insurance Co. and Reserve National Insurance Co. — say the law’s retroactivity is unfair. They write policies in Florida.

Having to annually track down millions of death records to find beneficiaries is too burdensome, they have said in court filings, especially when the law prohibits them from passing along their costs to insureds or beneficiaries.

The plaintiffs are represented by Tallahassee attorney Barry Richard of the Greenberg Traurig law firm; George Meros of GrayRobinson is on the case as outside counsel for the department, now led by new CFO Jimmy Patronis.

Written By

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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