The Hartford has extricated itself from a class action suit that involves policyholders from eight states (New Jersey, California, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and Illinois) and alleged misdoings by four other insurance companies (Allianz, Aetna, American Insurance, Liberty Mutual, and their subsidiaries). By agreeing to pay $12 million to businesses and individuals holding workers compensation policies, The Hartford will lay to rest allegations of price-fixing. The Hartford must also pay $250,000 towards the cost of notifying the members of the class, but the company does not have to admit any wrongdoing.
The class action suit was originally filed in 1997 and covers a period from 1995 through May 7, 1998. The class was formed in part because 10 lawsuits filed in eight different states alleged similar workers comp price-fixing.
Plaintiffs say insurers conspired about workers comp prices.
The plaintiffs, who number in the thousands, allege that the five insurance companies and the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), an industry group that provides statistical and research information to insurance companies, conspired to charge excessive workers compensation rates, billed for rates that were not filed with the state insurance department, and conspired to fix premium prices.
The Hartford is the only defendant that has settled the case. John Karaczynski, counsel for the NCCI, says lawyers will continue to "vigorously defend" the case because they dispute every allegation made by the class.
"We settled because it was in our and our customers best interests," a spokeswoman for The Hartford says. The company says it did not wish to get mired in what they saw as an expensive and drawn-out litigation process.
The Hartford has started sending notices of the preliminary settlement agreement to the plaintiffs, who include a lumber company, a restaurant, and a supermarket. A hearing for final approval of the settlement is scheduled for March 1, 1999. Checks will be issued to the plaintiffs only after the settlement receives final court approval.
Class members who wish to exclude themselves from the case must send a written request by Feb. 8, 1999, to:
AFCO Industries, Inc. vs. Hartford Accident & Indemnity Co.
c/o Gilardi & Co. LLC
P.O. Box 5100
Larkspur, Calif. 94977-5100
If any class member wishes to receive part of the $12 million settlement, he must respond by May 31, 1999, to the notifications The Hartford has started sending. If you wish to view the class notification, go to http://www.gilardi.com/hartford.
Last updated Jan. 21, 1999