Top Florida insurer claims broker sent ‘slanderous’ letters to poach business

in Local Courts by
Bob Ritchie, founder, president, and CEO of Tampa-based American Integrity Insurance.

Two insurers are going head-to-head in a lawsuit where one claims the other sent slanderous letters to customers in an attempt to take away business.

Tampa-based American Integrity Insurance Company is suing Southern Insurance Group and Tom Johnson, owner of Southern Insurance, in a suit filed Nov. 8, 2016.

Plaintiff Robert “Bob” Ritchie is the CEO and founder of American, which has grown to be one of the largest homeowner insurers in Florida, with more than 200,000 policies outstanding.

Southern Insurance, based in Clermont, was a broker of American Integrity. In July 2016, American Integrity terminated its agreement with Southern Insurance. Court records do not say how many policyholders American Integrity had among Southern Insurance customers, nor why American decided to cease doing business with Southern.

What the suit does say is that Johnson sent letters to former American Integrity policyholders on behalf of his company. They were sent in regards to the termination of the agreement. The letters make defamatory statements about American Integrity. One such claim was that the company’s “losses have far exceeded the company’s ability to stay profitable.” The emails go on to explain that American Integrity had a large rate increase this year and will likely have another next year. The letters offer to start a new policy for the customer with a new company that is an “an Exceptional” carrier.

On June 22, 2016, American Integrity sent Southern Insurance a cease and desist of all defamatory statements. However, the company continued to send out the allegedly defamatory letters to policyholders.

The suit claims that Southern Insurance is still making slanderous statements in regards to American Integrity. American says Johnson’s statements were “false and defamatory,” damaging both American’s reputation and finances.

American Integrity further claims that Southern Insurance misused policyholders’ confidential information.

American Integrity is suing the two parties on five counts and seeks damages for libel and interference of its business relationships. The company is also requesting an injunction that would prohibit Southern Insurance from making any further false statements.