CHARLESTON - The City of Charleston and 14 insurance companies have reached an agreement to settle a lawsuit filed by the city in 2002.

In the lawsuit, the city alleged that the companies deceived it with schemes going back to the mid-1990s. The two sides settled for $500,000.

Approximately $300,000 of the settlement will go to the city, and the other $200,000 will go to Marvin W. Masters of Charleston's Masters Law Firm.

Much of the suit dealt with the companies' handling of underinsured motorist liability insurance policies. Commercial Insurance Services reportedly acted as the local representative for the other 13 companies listed as defendant.

The lawsuit says the companies rushed city leaders into renewing its underinsured motorist liability insurance coverage in order to keep a new administration from questioning the proposal, convinced city officials to cut the insurance coverage from $1 million to $50,000 and showed the city a false form for the coverage so officials wouldn't know t he true cost of the policy.

The suit says the city was forced to incur significant legal costs.

Commercial Insurance Services still conducts business with the city.

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