20th Century Insurance Group, among the hardest hit insurers following the Northridge earthquake, re-entered the home insurance market as of Sept. 15.
But don’t look for it to offer quake coverage. “We’re not getting back into earthquake insurance,” said spokesman Ric Hill.
Instead, Woodland Hills-based 20th Century is referring its residential policyholders to GeoVera Insurance, a private insurer.
After the damage it sustained in 1994, the insurer might seem justified. With 236,000 policies at the time of the Northridge quake, and most of those policies in Southern California, 20th Century faced more than $1 billion in claims as well as lawsuits from homeowners unhappy with their settlements.
Two homeowners won multimillion-dollar settlements, with civil juries finding the company guilty of fraud, bad faith and failure to promptly pay claims.
20th Century had only joined the quake insurance market in 1982 because state law required home insurers to offer such coverage. “We didn’t understand the ramifications of being locked into that kind of exposure,” Hill said.
In 1994, the Department of Insurance allowed 20th Century to leave the home insurance market. A year later, the company settled a lawsuit with the department, agreeing to refund $78 million to customers following the quake.
Teetering on the brink with a net loss of $498 million in 1994, 20th Century was rescued by a capital infusion that same year from American International Group Inc. Last year, AIG increased its ownership stake to more than 50 percent and took control of the board. For 1998, 20th Century reported net income of $101 million.