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Farmers Insurance and State of Texas Reach Tentative Deal on Mold Claims

AUSTIN, Texas -- The state of Texas and Farmers Insurance want to settle decade-old claims of overcharging and underserving customers for $117.5 million, which would be one of the largest insurance settlements in state history but less than what some people wanted.

A proposal filed in Travis County District Court is expected to be reviewed by a judge in January, The Dallas Morning News reported Saturday.(http://dallasne.ws/1cyp1XW).

If it's approved, Farmers would pay out the money in refunds and credits to Texas policyholders between 2000 and 2003. The agreement has the approval of both state insurance officials and Farmers executives.

"It's been a long time coming and we are looking forward to helping Texas policyholders get the refunds they deserve," Insurance Commissioner Julia Rathgeber said.

The deal is nearly identical to an agreement reached in 2003, which was held up by a group of Farmers customers who said it wasn't enough.

"It was a sweetheart deal for Farmers 10 years ago, and it is still a sweetheart deal today," said Alex Winslow, of the consumer organization Texas Watch. "It appears that the commissioner and attorney general are just rubber-stamping a bad deal for consumers."

The Texas Department of Insurance had accused Farmers of overcharging customers and cutting coverage in the wake of spiraling claims of mold in homes statewide. The state said some customers didn't get discounts they were supposed to receive, and others paid more for auto and home insurance because Farmers looked at inaccurate credit reports.

Farmers would countersue. A decade later, it will admit no wrongdoing as part of the settlement, and it will not pay any interest on the money paid to customers.

"Closure of this case has been delayed since 2003 due to appeals filed by a small number of plaintiffs," Farmers spokesman Mark Toohey told the newspaper. "Since the settlement agreement was first announced in this case more than 10 years ago, Farmers Insurance has been and continues to be strongly committed to its finalization."

Farmers is the third-largest insurer of homes in Texas.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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