Florida CFO responds to WINK News property insurance investigation: ‘This is why I fight for people to get their claims closed.’

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“Seeing people hurting is… it’s not a fun part of the job, but seeing them be made whole, that’s why I show up every day.” Jimmy Patronis, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer

That’s Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis in a one-on-one interview with WINK News Investigative Reporter Céline McArthur. He is responding to Celine’s investigation into a Cape Coral couple’s ongoing struggle… Not only with their property insurance company but also with their public adjuster and attorney!

496 days after Hurricane Ian, Elaine and Michael Damiano have not received the money they believe they are entitled to—under their policy—for repairing their home. To make matters worse, there seems to be no resolution in sight. So, Celine brought their story to Tallahassee to get answers and action from the people in power.

WINK News Investigative Reporter Céline McArthur goes to Tallahassee to discuss the property insurance crisis with CFO Jimmy Patronis.

Patronis oversees the insurance industry in Florida. So, if there’s anyone in the state who has the power to help the Damianos—and many of you struggling with your hurricane Ian insurance claim—it’s him.

Elaine Damiano is exhausted from the fight.

Elaine Damiano, Cape Coral homeowner

16 months post-hurricane Ian, she and her husband Michael are still waiting for Cypress Property and Casualty Insurance to settle their claim. They had expected their public adjuster Scotty Moland and attorney David Sholl would have had some success in negotiating a payout by now.

“We’re getting nowhere. We’re getting absolutely nowhere,” vented Elaine in frustration.

To make matters worse, the Damianos accuse Moland and Sholl of keeping them in the dark about what’s really going on with their claim. Moland was questioned under oath by Cypress, with the Damianos’ attorney present. The couple repeatedly requested the transcript of that deposition from both of them and did not receive it!

Public Adjuster Scotty Moland (left) and Attorney David Sholl (right)

I asked Moland, Sholl and Cypress for a transcript and didn’t get it.
Moland claimed he asked Cypress with no success.
Sholl assured he’d look into it but never got back to us.
And Cypress remains silent.

“Honest to God, who do I go to if our attorneys not working for us? And I feel our public adjuster is not working for us,” exclaimed Elaine. “Where do I go? Where does anybody like us go?”

CFO Jimmy Patronis not only took my call but also watched my investigation into Elaine and Michael’s ordeal. Patronis, visibly moved, expressed his frustration.

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis discusses the property insurance crisis with WINK Investigative Reporter Céline McArthur.

“They’re so vulnerable, and after storms, we witness the absolute best and worst in people. I get so mad because these predators come out. You get people who retire to Florida—after working my whole life in New Jersey, I wanted to enjoy the sunny weather in southwest Florida without dealing with snow. And yet, you see them just get screwed.”

Patronis strongly condemns the lack of transparency in their claims process and vows to get answers.

“This is why I show up to work every day. This is why I fight for people to get their claims closed,” said Patronis.

He also expressed concern about the relationship between the Damianos’ public adjuster and attorney. Moland recommended Sholl.

“Public adjusters are in bed with the attorneys because the attorneys can’t solicit. So what they do is they use the public adjuster solicitation arm to feed them,” argued Patronis.

We don’t know if that’s what happened here. If you need a lawyer, the CFO recommends that you hire one independent of your public adjuster.

“The only attorney I encourage anybody ever to hire is the one they know personally, that they go to church with, they do business with,” advised Patronis.

I also raised the Damiano case with Republican Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, who represents parts of southwest Florida and is also an attorney. Alarmed by the lingering open case and unfamiliar with examinations under oath, she pledged that her team would look into the couple’s claim.

Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo (R) interviews with WINK News Investigative Reporter Céline McArthur

“I said to the insurance companies when we did the big legislation last year, ‘They said we know that these are the things we need for us to be able to adjust claims and to handle cases, etc.’ And we did it. I said, ‘If you don’t respond, there’ll be hell to pay.'” She added, “We’re calling the companies and saying, ‘What’s going on here?’ and we’re getting some results.”

I then brought the Damiano case to Republican Senator Jim Boyd, the chairman of the banking and insurance committee. His response:

“That’s not acceptable. First of all, insurance companies that do business in Florida have to operate to a certain standard,” Boyd stated.

Senator Jim Boyd (R), Chairman of the Committee on Insurance and Banking discusses the property insurance crisis with WINK News Investigative Reporter Céline McArthur.

The Damianos are thankful these lawmakers are willing to help them.

“We’re at a point now that they’re the only ones collectively that can fix this not only for us but for other people. There are going to be other hurricanes. They need to come up with a better way of handling these hurricanes and people like us,” shared Elaine.

Patronis, Passidomo, and Boyd are armed with Elaine and Michael’s insurance claim information, and I’ll keep you posted on their progress.

In the meantime, you might be wondering, Céline, what steps are lawmakers taking to tackle the skyrocketing cost of property insurance? I navigated the Capitol complex, engaging with both Republicans and Democrats to find out. That story is next.

Want to talk about property insurance? Email me at celine.mcarthur@winknews.com.

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