Conn. Case over Disclosure of Insurance Agency Data to Continue

By | September 4, 2008

The Connecticut Supreme Court has declined to rule on a Florida company’s efforts to block state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal from disclosing information he obtained while investigating the insurance industry.

The lawsuit by Brown & Brown Insurance Inc., which is still pending in Hartford Superior Court, could determine whether Blumenthal can share data with other states’ attorneys general who also are reviewing antitrust allegations in the industry.

The case stemmed from Blumenthal’s 2006 subpoena of Brown & Brown, an insurance intermediary firm based in Tampa and Daytona Beach, Fla.

The company initially provided more than 12,000 pages of documents, but stopped and sued under state antitrust laws when it could not get ironclad assurances from Blumenthal to keep the information confidential.

Brown & Brown had asked the trial court for summary judgment, which would have ended the case in its favor. The court rejected its request in 2007, and the company appealed.

In a 4-1 decision released Tuesday, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and said it did not have jurisdiction because the case is still pending in the lower court.

Justice Richard N. Palmer dissented, saying the parties likely will end up before the Supreme Court anyway and that handling the issue now would avoid wasting everyone’s time and resources.

Blumenthal said the ruling will allow him to continue his investigation after a two-year delay.

“Brown & Brown must swiftly surrender documents we subpoenaed more than two years ago, or face more legal action,” he said.

Insurance intermediaries like Brown & Brown are hired by clients to help them find insurers with the ability and financial stability to underwrite their policies. They also help the clients pick between competing offers.

Cory T. Walker, a spokesman for Brown & Brown, said company officials were reviewing the Supreme Court’s decision Tuesday.

“It would have been better if they would have ruled on it, but we’ll go back to the case,” he said. “We just want (Blumenthal) to follow state law as it’s already defined.”

Brown & Brown’s shares opened at $20.57 on Tuesday morning, up 2.08 percent, before the court’s ruling was announced. They dipped to $20.55 in early afternoon trading.

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