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T he Supreme Court refused Monday to block California earthquake victims from filing claims years after the 1994 quake that killed dozens of people. The insurance industry had challenged a state law that gave thousands of Northridge earthquake victims more time to refile claims. Justices refused without comment to consider the case. Legislators approved the extension, which ran through the end of last year, because of disclosures that some people were being ripped off by insurers. Insurance companies contend they have not mishandled claims, and they told the Supreme Court that it was unconstitutional to retroactively void contracts and the standard one-year deadline for filing claims. “This retroactive legislation, by dramatically upsetting settled expectations, is a wholesale assault on economic rights,” attorney David S. Ettinger told the court in a filing. The January 1994 earthquake caused about $15.3 billion in insured losses. More than 600,000 claims were filed in connection with the quake. The Legislature wanted to give victims who were unhappy with their insurance company’s action a year to resubmit claims. A California appeals court had turned down the challenge by 21st Century Insurance Co., previously known as 20th Century Insurance Co. The case is 20th Century Insurance Co. v. Superior Court of California for County of Los Angeles, 01-941.

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