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Washington Governor Signs Legislation That will Clog the Courts and Raise Insurance Costs

Olympia, WA, May 16, 2007 – Three insurance industry advocacy trade associations expressed deep disappointment in Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire’s (D) decision to sign legislation designed to increase unnecessary lawsuits.

The American Insurance Association (AIA), the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC), and the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) joined with the Washington business community in urging Gov. Gregoire to veto SB 5726.

“SB 5726 will line the pockets of plaintiff trial lawyers with gold at the expense of the insurance consumer. SB 5726 is a perfect example of special interest legislation being cloaked in the guise of consumer protection,” said Christian John Rataj, NAMIC state affairs manager for the Western U.S. “This new law will increase the cost of insurance for individuals and businesses in the state, burden the judicial system with frivolous legal claims, and adversely impact the timely settlement of insurance claims."

"The governor's decision to sign SB 5726 despite its acknowledged, dangerous flaws is a great disappointment. Under this law, Washington will become the easiest state in the nation in which to file frivolous, costly lawsuits against insurance companies,” said Kenton Brine, PCI NW regional manager. “By setting the nation's lowest threshold for allowing punitive lawsuits against insurers for even minor or accidental claims-handling mistakes, SB 5726 will allow virtually every insurance claim, regardless of merit, to become a “bad faith” lawsuit - triggering access to awards totaling 3 times actual damages."

“The governor's signing of this legislation is especially perplexing given her stated priority of making Washington a more friendly state in which to do business,” said Ken Gibson, AIA vice president, Western Region. “Adding a layer of costs onto small and large businesses alike would seem to be very counter productive to her goal of improving the business climate. Unfortunately, insurance claims handling in Washington will now be out of step with the rest of the nation.”

SB 5726 is sponsored by the Washington trial lawyers and will allow damages, costs and attorneys fees, and authorizes the granting of treble damages. These same remedies would also be applicable to unfair claims practice violations under the Washington Administrative Code. The legislation will take effect on July 22, 2007.

For further information, contact

Kenton Brine
PCI NW Regional Manager

Nicole Mahrt
AIA Director of Public Affairs, Western Region
916-422-7617 ext. 5

Christian John Rataj
NAMIC State Affairs Manager, Western Region

Posted: Wednesday, May 16, 2007 12:00:00 AM. Modified: Thursday, May 17, 2007 9:57:24 AM.

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