Garamendi Announces Restitution Settlement for San Diego Fire Survivors

January 24, 2005

Standing with survivors of the devastating 2003 Southern California wildfires, California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi and San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis on Jan. 6 announced a $128,707 settlement with a Los Angeles public adjuster stemming from its handling of fire survivor claims.

Speaking in front of a home under construction for a Crest family, the Commissioner noted that although it has been more than a year since the October 2003 fires, many families are still waiting to settle claims and rebuild their homes. The unlawful activity of public adjusters, he said, exacerbates the problem.

“The survivors of the firestorms have looked to public adjusters for help and guidance in the wake of the disaster,” Commissioner Garamendi said. “Instead, these families were allegedly duped into signing bad contracts that cost them tens of thousands of dollars, money they needed to rebuild their lives. This is wrong, and I will continue my efforts to fight this scam so others won’t be victimized.”

Investigators into the current case alleged that Kapilow & Son of Los Angeles unlawfully hired unlicensed public adjusters, who then misled four families in East San Diego County into signing the contracts. All four families have received restitution in the case.

“When the fires raged through the back country, our office promised that victims would not be re-victimized. Today we are here to fulfill that promise,” said San Diego District Attorney Bonnie M. Dumanis.

The investigation began after an anonymous tip late last year to the Ramona Fire Resource Center. Complaints of unlicensed public adjusters soliciting business in the Julian, Ramona and Crest communities had begun to surface. Investigators contacted the four families and found that the unlicensed adjusters had told them that the cost of adjusting services would only be 10 percent of any new money the insured received. However, the actual contract called for the adjuster to receive 10 percent of all money received from claims settlements.

After the investigation, Kapilow & Sons agreed to a final judgment of a civil complaint filed by the San Diego District Attorney’s office. Without admitting wrongdoing, the company paid $72,757 in restitution to the victims and $55,950 in investigation costs and penalties. It also agreed to lifetime injunctions against further violations.

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