"These cases against 20th Century and Allstate quite frankly are the worst conduct I've ever seen by insurance companies. They used a number of fraudulent schemes to avoid payment. 20th Century was willing to take the insured's premiums for earthquake coverage, knowing that if a quake came, they would never indemnify for the loss. Allstate essentially did the same thing and they had the money to pay it."
NAME: David A. Prestholt
PROFESSION: Attorney. Attended UCLA law school. Partner in Los Angeles law firm of Prestholt, Kleeger, Fidone & Villasenor. An aggressive advocate for homeowners in lawsuits against insurance companies over unpaid damage claims from the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
LATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Co-counsel in celebrated trial in which a Superior Court jury found 20th Century Insurance guilty of bad faith and fraud for refusing to pay for quake repairs on the Tarzana home of schoolteachers James and Lorraine Meyer. The jury awarded the Meyers $7.2 million, including $6.75 million in punitive damages. The judge let stand the jury's verdicts, though he reduced the award to $480,000 to cover home repairs and attorneys' fees and ordered a new trial over punitive damages. 20th Century appealed, and a new trial may be as much as two years away.
GOALS FOR 1998: Prestholt is handling 15 homeowner lawsuits against 20th Century and Allstate over unpaid Northridge quake claims. He hopes these cases, plus those filed by other attorneys, will force insurance companies to pay up, and to reopen thousands of other Northridge quake claims. Prestholt hopes the lawsuits will establish clear case law that in the future will prevent insurance companies from restricting damage claims by imposing what he calls fraudulent time limits.