Homeowners claim insurer not paying for tornado damage

Ann Knef Sep. 7, 2006, 2:52am

O'Fallon homeowners Kevin M. and Debbie J. Hazlett are suing Illinois Farmers Insurance Co. for refusing to pay a five-month-old tornado damage claim.

Kevin Hazlett is a Swansea attorney representing the matter.

"Farmers' responses were the usual and customary boilerplate and doublespeak jargon of adjusters and supervisors such as 'we don't pay for that', 'that is not included', 'it was not caused by the tornado', 'we do not think we owe that'," the Hazletts claim in a suit filed Aug. 30 in St. Clair County Circuit Court.

They claim Farmers breached contract and violated the Illinois Insurance.

After a tornado struck their home located at 1673 Lancaster Dr. on April 2, the Hazletts hired three independent structural engineering firms all of which indicated the less than one-year-old home sustained major damage and that substantial demolition would be necessary, the suit claims.

The Hazletts also claim a contractor they hired estimated that the home's damage exceeded $1 million, but that a software program used by Farmers estimated the loss at $470,791.07.

The complaint also states that Farmers later hired a general contractor to provide a repair estimate which amounted to $848,824.

"Farmers then disputed the estimate provided by its own contractor on the basis that the writen estimate 'does not provide the basis for the estimate'," the complaint states.

The Hazletts also claim they have never been provided a copy of an engineering study commissioned by Farmers, which was conducted by Herman Engineering Services.

"At no time did Farmers indicate to plaintiffs that the opinions of its expert from Herman Engineering Services contradicted the opinions of plaintiffs' three structural engineers," the complaint states.

The complaint also alleges that mold began developing on the home's drywall approximately six weeks after the date of loss, but Farmers told the Hazletts it was not a covered loss.

"That Farmers then delayed until June 15, 2006, to send an engineer from Chicago to southern Illinois to examine the residence for mold even though Farmers had been informed that all of the drywall in the house had been removed and after stating to plaintiffs that mold was not a covered loss," the complaint states.

The Hazletts also claim Farmers under estimated the cost of replacing the home's electrical wiring.

"Farmers has known since late April 2006 that the cost of this project would be at or near policy limits and that its initial estimate was approximately 50% of policy limits," the complaint states.

"Plaintiffs have demanded that defendant pay their claim pursuant to the provisions of the insurance policy but defendant has refused to pay."

In alleging that Farmers violated the Illinois Insurance Code, the Hazletts claim their insurer is guilty of "compelling policyholders to institute suits to recover amounts due under its policies by offering substantially less than the amounts ultimately recovered in suits brought by them."

More News