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Judges reinstate administrative order to refund excessive title insurance premiums

December 19, 2012

After finding a trial court exceeded its authority when it reweighed evidence presented to a hearing officer regarding overcharging of title insurance premiums by several agencies, the Indiana Court of Appeals reinstated the administrative order issued by the Indiana commissioner of insurance to refund excessive premiums.

A hearing officer appointed by the Indiana Department of Insurance conducted an investigation into independent non-affiliated agencies operated in the state by Ticor Title Insurance Co. of Florida to see if the company was charging potentially excessive and discriminatory title insurance rates to Indiana customers. The hearing officer found the rates were excessive and discriminatory and ordered Ticor to refund excessive premiums, pay unpaid premium taxes and establish an internal control process to ensure that the appropriate premium is charged to Ticor’s customers.

Ticor sought judicial review, and Marion Superior Judge David Dreyer reversed, finding the hearing officer applied an arbitrary rate-making standard and, therefore, erred when it found Ticor charged premiums or rates that were unfairly discriminatory. Dreyer also found the hearing officer erred when concluding that Ticor failed to properly monitor its non-affiliated operations’ compliance with the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act and when it included settlement charges in its calculation of Ticor’s premium tax obligation.

Judge Paul Mathias noted that the hearing officer for IDOI and Dreyer applied differing interpretations of the rate statute, I.C. 27-4-1-4(a)(7)(C)(i). The appellate court found IDOI’s interpretation of the statute – that insurers should be charging comparable insurance premiums to insureds purchasing the same amount of title insurance – to be reasonable. Ticor even acknowledged that its agents should have been charging its Indiana customers the same rates for the same amount of title insurance.

The judges found Ticor had actual authority over its agents for the purpose of selling and issuing Ticor’s title insurance policies and that substantial evidence supports the administrative hearing officer’s conclusions.

The judges remanded Stephen W. Robertson, Ins. Comm. of the State of Indiana, on behalf of the Indiana Dept. of Ins. v. Ticor Title Ins. Co. of Florida, n/k/a Chicago Title Ins. Co., 49A02-1110-PL-971, for further proceedings consistent with the opinion.

 

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