Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon last week issued a cease-and-desist order against a Houston-based law firm, accusing it of fraud involving potentially hundreds of hurricane-related claims in his state.
“The size and scope of McClenny, Moseley & Associates’ illegal insurance scheme is like nothing I’ve seen before,” Donelon said in a press release. “It’s rare for the department to issue regulatory actions against entities we don’t regulate, but in this case, the order is necessary to protect policyholders from the firm’s fraudulent insurance activity.”
According to Donelon, the law firm filed more than 1,500 hurricane claim lawsuits in Louisiana over the span of three months last year.
The Louisiana property insurance market has been deteriorating since the state was hit by record hurricane activity in 2020 and 2021, to the extent that 11 insurers that write homeowners coverage in Louisiana were declared insolvent between July 2021 and September 2022. Insurers have paid out more than $23 billion in insured losses from over 800,000 claims filed from the two years of heavy hurricane activity. The largest property-loss events were Hurricane Laura (2020) and Hurricane Ida (2021).
In addition to driving insurer insolvencies, the growing losses have caused a dozen insurers to withdraw from the market and more than 50 to stop writing new business in hurricane-prone parishes.
Louisiana’s troubles parallel those of another coastal state, Florida, but there are significant differences. Florida’s problems are largely rooted in decades of legal system abuse and fraud, whereas Louisiana’s have had more to do with insurers being undercapitalized and not having enough reinsurance coverage to withstand the claims incurred during the record-setting hurricane seasons of 2020 and 2021. In general, Louisiana insurers have not experienced the level of excessive litigation that Florida insurers have faced.
“It now appears some trial attorneys are trying to take a page out of the Florida playbook by engaging in litigation abuse against Louisiana property insurers,” said Triple-I Director of Corporate Communications Mark Friedlander. “We commend Commissioner Donelon for quickly addressing these fraudulent practices.”
According to reporting by the Times Picayune/New Orleans Advocate, an investigation by the Louisiana Department of Insurance found the Houston-based firm engaged in insurance fraud and unfair trade practices through Alabama-based Apex Roofing and Restoration and has faced accusations of potentially criminal behavior in courts across the state. In one such case, the paper reported, a woman testified that she had never intended to retain the law firm when she hired the roofing company to fix her hurricane-damaged roof.
“The firm told her insurance company that it represented her and even filed a lawsuit on her behalf, though she said she was unaware of it,” the paper said.
Legal system abuse is a pervasive problem that contributes to higher costs for insurers and policyholders nationwide, as well as to rising costs generally, given the importance of insurance in development and commerce. Triple-I is committed to informing the discussion around this critical issue.