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ORLANDO-Attorneys’ Title Insurance Fund, the largest underwriter in Florida, has settled a $2.5-million class-action lawsuit involving more than 150,000 customers who bought insurance from the firm between Feb. 1, 1999 and Sept. 5, 2005 and didn’t receive state-mandated discounts.

Attorneys’ Title has agreed to mail refunds of $15 to $180 to its customers but admits no wrongdoing. People in a position to know tell GlobeSt.com Attorneys’ Title posture in the settlement is that some of its network agents may have incorrectly charged some customers but the company itself was never part of such activity.

“The crux of this whole matter is in the interpretation of the state’s regulations [on discounts]. As they read now, we feel they are too ambiguous for most in the industry to understand clearly. However, our own company manual has always instructed all agents in the proper handling of discounts,” says Charles J. Coveleski, president, Attorneys’ Title Insurance Fund.

A spokesman for the Florida Department of Financial Services says the law is clear and the discounts are mandatory. Florida law mandates a 40% premium discount for customers refinancing a mortgage.

Five other major insurers operating in Central Florida, also named in separate and similar lawsuits, are expected to follow Attorneys’ Title action in settling the litigation quickly rather than challenging the allegations in protracted and costly court dates, sources close to the title insurance industry here tell GlobeSt.com. Those underwriters are Stewart Title Guaranty, Old Republic National Title, Lawyers Title Insurance, Ticor Insurance and Fidelity National Title.

Industry sources confirm for GlobeSt.com that all title insurers operating in Florida have now told their agents to provide discounts to homeowners refinancing a mortgage; investors buying unimproved property; and to owners of existing homes less than three years old.

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