The parent company of the Costa Concordia announced recently that a Florida company would be handling the salvage of the ship. A different contractor removed the stricken ship's fuel in March, warding off an environmental disaster in the process. And a major insurance company reported that it, too, avoided disaster: The company took a hit from the Costa Concordia, but it still made a profit -- there still may be customer claims and lawsuits, though, especially for the families of the 32 people who died.
Florida homeowners dread this time of year. For some, hurricane predictions may be harder to take than the storms themselves. It may be the sense of helplessness in the face of nature. It may be the fear of reliving that day in 2005 when the homeowner discovered too late that hurricane insurance benefits wouldn't cover all the damage. It may be memories of the "chicken little" warnings over the past two years.
We are finishing up our series of posts to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. There is something about the disaster, something that has particularly captured the imagination for the past century. For us, of course, it's a great story about insurance coverage and claim payments. But for others, it is the folly of believing the ship to be unsinkable; or it is the appalling loss of life, or the fact that so many famous people were on the ship; or it is the sheer luxury of the ship that passengers enjoyed for a few short days. Titanic has become a metaphor for just about everything: hubris, glamour, human error and class differences.
The history of insurance is remarkably interesting. While gambling on risk dates back to ancient civilizations, most insurance wonks consider the introduction of "modern" insurance to date to the late 17th Century at Lloyd's coffee house. Of course, if you ask some Florida homeowners, not much has changed in the last 300 years: It can still take months or years for an insurance company to pay a claim.
John Jacob Astor, Isidor Straus, Benjamin Guggenheim: These men were just three of the millionaires lost on Titanic. Their estates were worth millions -- Straus, $4.4 million; Guggenheim, $3.5 million; Astor, untold millions, considering he left trusts for his unborn son of $3 million and his widow of $5 million. Their wealth was enough that their families may not have worried about their life insurance policies paying out quickly, or at all.
When the Costa Concordia foundered in January, insurance industry insiders thought the cruise line's Florida-based parent company would avoid insurance and legal liability. It seemed that, with their ticket purchase, passengers agreed to pursue legal actions through the Italian courts. The venue for insurance claim disputes has been a source of contention.
There are all sorts of laws that apply to parades, demonstrations and marches. Generally, if a group wants to use city streets, the city must first give them permission. Before they grant permission, though, city governments ask for certain reassurances from the organizers. Key among those is that the sponsoring organization has liability insurance to cover the event.
A major insurance company, Washington Mutual Inc., filed a lawsuit in March accusing a dozen other insurers of improperly denying it coverage for claims under directors' and officers' liability policies issued in 2008 and 2009. Washington Mutual is asserting that it is entitled to $250 million in coverage, and that the other insurers breached their covenants of good faith and fair dealing in denying coverage.
With the hurricane season in the rearview mirror, most -- if not all -- Florida homeowners are wiping sweat from their brow. It is one less threat to their home that they have to worry about. But other homeowners may still be without or past due on their insurance policy.