5/02 State Farm, Prudential Don’t Like Guns

State Farm And Prudential Don’t Like Guns
Larry Pratt

Gary Atkinson, a South Carolina businessman and Del Bruno, a Connecticut cop, have had a common problem. When their insurance companies found out that they were involved with guns, they had their insurance coverage canceled.

Del Bruno sought a homeowners policy for his new condo. Just after taking out his policy with Prudential, they wanted a list of his guns and their serial numbers upon learning that he owned firearms. For whatever reason, they decided that the Mossberg 500 was a no-no, and they cancelled his policy.

Prudential was of the opinion that Bruno’s shotgun was not a sporting weapon, the only kind they will insure.

Gary Atkinson had been with State Farm for 34 years. He wanted to be sure his homeowners policy was up to date, especially — as he told his agent’s assistant — since he has a pool and a shooting range on an adjacent property. “A shooting range?” (Forget the fact that pools are more dangerous. The magic word is GUN.)

Atkinson got a call from his agent the next day telling him he had seven days to find a new policy. Then State Farm was going to cancel him. Atkinson brought the agent to the adjacent property to see his range. It is actually rather professional, since Atkinson has heavy equipment, which his company makes. He used the equipment to make berms in front of hills that were already on the property.

Gary got a million dollar liability policy through the NRA to cover the range and offered to sign a total waiver of responsibility for State Farm on any firearm related claims. All of this was to no avail.

After some research, Atkinson learned that State Farm has canceled other people in other parts of the country. It seems they have — for the agents — a permissive policy. If the agent wants to cancel a gun owner, they can do so at their own discretion.

Atkinson was told by his agent that no company would insure someone like him. That is when Atkinson found out about Lockton Risk Services in Kansas City, MO (phone: 913-676-9150). They referred him to three insurance companies — Farm Bureau, Nationwide and American National Property and Casualty.

Gary ended up switching all of his insurance to American National and saving money from what he had been paying State Farm.

One of his last conversations with his State Farm agent involved his discovery that she had the discretion to cancel him, not the requirement to do so. When he told her that he would tell others what State Farm had done to him, she retorted: “What are you going to be able to do by yourself?”

When Gary told me that, I decided that others should know about this anti-self-defense policy at State Farm (and, of course, at Prudential).

Hopefully there is one more reason you may decide to cancel your State Farm Policy — they are anti-customer in general.

An investigative reporter for New Times found that State Farm has a national policy of underpaying claims. The policy even extends to dragging out lawsuits that any disappointed claimants might file against them in order to increase the cost of litigation to the point of forcing them to settle for less than the policy is worth.

You can go to the web page of Grass Roots South Carolina (www.scfirearms.org) and see the whole story with a very nice piece of artwork to represent Snake Farm Insurance Company.

After you have canceled your Snake Farm insurance policy, you might want to let them know why. Mr. Edward Rust is the president of State Farm Fire and Casualty Company in Bloomington, IL. The phone there is 309-766-2311.

And don’t forget to let Prudential know why you have cancelled them if you have a policy with them. Their phone number at their Newark, NJ headquarters is: 1-800-562-8838.

See the archives at http://www.gunowners.org/radio.htm to listen to my interview on Live Fire with Gary Atkinson.

Addendum by Arizona Second Amendment attorney David Hardy:

Figured you might want to know that in Arizona, [State Farm] is infamous for bad faith and underpayment.

Just did a computer search for Arizona appellate cases with “insurance” and “bad faith.” Of the most recent 50, 15 are State Farm. Runners up are Farmers, with 3 cases, and Ticor, with 2. You can see how they stand out.

A few samples: Clearwater v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., 792 P.2d 719, 164 Ariz. 256 (Ariz. 05/01/1990). Auto accident, insured had a $50,000 liability policy. The injured party offered to settle for that, State Farm refused (and didn’t even tell their insured about it). Injured party sued and won $125,000 — $75,000 of which would have come out of the insured’s pocket. State Farm lost on a bad faith failure to settle claim.

Deese v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., 838 P.2d 1265, 172 Ariz. 504 (Ariz. 10/02/1992). Supreme Court upholds an award of punitive damages against State Farm for bad faith refusal to settle a claim for medical expenses.

Bradshaw v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., 758 P.2d 1313, 157 Ariz. 411 (Ariz. 05/18/1988). The insured ran a stop sign and was hit by a police car, which had lights and sirens on. The officer was seriously injured. State Farm paid off its insured’s damages, took over their rights to sue, and caused a suit to be filed against the police officer.

Its own claims committee had concluded that it had no case — the fault was that of its insured, not the officer, and a company official had written that suing the officer might be a good “defensive” strategy. The officer counterclaimed for malicious prosecution, the jury awarded him two million dollars in punitive damages; the trial judge reduced that to one million. Arizona Supreme Court affirmed. It also noted that State Farm has annual revenues of $700 million and unassigned cash reserves of five billion. It concluded:

    There was evidence that State Farm acted intentionally, without subjective belief in the merits of the lawsuit it instituted, and that it was aware its action was unfounded and untenable. The evidence thus would support the ultimate inference that State Farm sought its own legitimate objective — settlement for as little as possible — by improper means, knowingly harassing and coercing the Bradshaws through filing an unjustified lawsuit. Thus, the jury could have concluded that State Farm knowingly acted improperly to serve its own interests and consciously disregarded a “substantial risk of significant harm to others”.