Rotary debate takes a look at Referendum 67

  • Amy Daybert<br>Enterprise editor
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 1:09pm

A Rotary Club lunch was the site of a debate on Oct. 2 as Rotarians and their guests learned more about Referendum 67.

Proponent of R67 and local attorney Roger Hawkes and spokesperson for the Reject R67 campaign Dana Childers presented arguments for and against the referendum before answering Rotarians’ questions.

The law’s intent is to make sure insurance agencies are acting in the best interest of their insured and paying legitimate claims in a timely manner, according to Hawkes. Over 4,000 complaints alleging that insurance companies acted in bad faith have been received by the insurance commissioner every year for the past five years, he said.

“The people who are opposed to (R67) are the insurance agencies,” Hawkes said. “The way they’re going to try to defeat this is by attacking trial lawyers and publishing absurd stories … one of insurance agencies’ tactics is to publish and spread and replicate absurd stories about some apparent injustice.”

Childers confirmed that insurers are concerned about R67 but added that every member of the business community is concerned as well. According to her, voter approval of R67 would result in higher taxes -equating to roughly $205 more annually per household — and increase the number of frivolous lawsuits. She said R67 is unnecessary because consumers already have three legal remedies and one administrative remedy against insurance companies. State laws allow for consumers to file a complaint with the Office of the Insurance Commissioner and sue up to three different times.

“There simply isn’t a need for R67,” Childers said. “It will cost us all more money and we currently have the legal remedy in place.”

She called R67 “a referendum in search of a problem.”

R67 would provide for mandatory attorney fees for plaintiff attorneys and allows for the insured to collect triple damages in lawsuits against insurance companies.

In most case, Hawkes said, the amount awarded to the plaintiff would come to three times $100 or three times $1,000. He doesn’t see any problems with the referendum.

“What is absurd is insurance companies can with impunity get away with cheating their insured out of small amounts of money where an ordinary person can’t hire a lawyer,” he said. “Just look at who supports the bill. If there was a problem we wouldn’t have hundreds of thousands of people around the state supporting the bill.”

Rotarian Jerry Cronk helped to organize the debate and was pleased with the outcome.

“I think the mood after was we’ll think about this,” he said.

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