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BRIM's claims expenses spike to $53M

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia Board of Risk and Insurance Management's claims expenses spiked nearly $20 million in fiscal 2012 to $53.39 million, BRIM's new annual report shows.

Settlements of sexual-misconduct claims against state Corrections and Regional Jail employees and damages caused by the June 29 derecho last year were key factors in the spike, BRIM director Chuck Jones said Wednesday.

Despite those incidents, Jones noted that BRIM remains fiscally sound. In fact, BRIM's 2013 annual report shows that total net assets at the end of fiscal 2012 were $221.5 million, up $1.68 million from the previous year.

"We don't have an unfunded liability like we used to have years ago," Jones said.

During the budget year, BRIM settled claims on about 100 Regional Jail lawsuits and 75 Corrections lawsuits, with settlements running as much as $25,000 to $30,000 each, including legal fees, he said.

"It's a considerable amount of money," he said.

In 2012, Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority Executive Director Joe DeLong told legislators the authority was taking steps to crack down on what he called frivolous lawsuits filed by female inmates.

He said settlements of the claims at that point had cost more than $7 million, and told legislators it was less expensive to settle sexual misconduct lawsuits than to defend the cases in court.

Changes included moving all state-sentenced female inmates awaiting transfer to Division of Corrections facilities to the Tygarts Valley Regional Jail, to limit any possible contact with male correctional officers.

Also, the June 29 derecho accounted for about $4.1 million in claims expenses, according to the report.

Jones said the storm was costly, since nearly all counties in the state had damage claims, unlike typical flood or storm damage, which tends to be limited to a few counties.

"That was an anomaly, obviously," he said. "We didn't expect anything like that."

He said the Division of Natural Resources was hard-hit, with state parks that not only had damage claims but suffered lost revenue from having to be closed for the July 4th holiday.

"State parks were affected tremendously," Jones said.

Jones also noted that claims payments tend to be cyclical, with upswings in certain years.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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