Two Madison County building owners are suing over claims their insurance company allegedly misidentified theft as vandalism in order to avoid contractual obligations after a burglary.

George N. Skidis Jr., Maria C. Skidis and George N. Skidis Jr., doing business as Varski Properties, filed a lawsuit Oct. 15 in Madison County Circuit Court against Country Mutual Insurance Company, Country Casualty Insurance Company, Country Insurance & Financial Services, Country Companies and Mark Wessel - claim specialist - field, citing breach of insurance policy contract.

According to the complaint, on April 23, 2007, the defendants executed an insurance policy covering the plaintiffs' rental dwellings on Westwood Drive in Cahokia, and on Oct. 15, 2013, the covered premises, which was under construction, sustained a burglary. The complaint states that in addition to the theft of building materials installed on the premises the theft of copper plumbing allowed more than 450,000 gallons water to run freely through the dwelling and cause additional damage. According to the lawsuit, had the damage not been sustained, the premises would have been ready for rental in 15 days, making $9,000 a year, and the policy including coverage for lost rent. The plaintiffs say the defendant companies sent claim specialist Wessel to inspect damages and, after his inspection - during which time he allegedly took no measurements or attempt to write an estimate of damages - the plaintiffs received a notice of denial of coverage.

The complaint states the defendant companies denied the Skidises' claim of theft, despite the police report stating it as such, and instead alleged it was vandalism, which is subject to an exception in the insurance policy as the premises has been vacant for more than 60 days prior. The plaintiffs say the policy includes language that excludes premises being constructed from the exception, and they believe the insurance companies purposely misidentified the incident as vandalism in order to avoid fulfilling their contractual obligations. The defendants are accused of breach of insurance policy contract and bad faith.

The plaintiffs seek reimbursement for the more than $67,800 sustained in damages, plus a 5 percent debris removal expense of $9,000, lost rents of $9,000, a statutory penalty of $60,000, attorney fees, costs of litigation and interest.

They are appearing pro se.

Madison County Circuit Court case number: 14-L-1407.

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