A St. Clair County business and its insureds are seeking more than $1.5 million from an insurance company, claiming the company wrongly blamed them for causing a fire that destroyed their business more than 10 years ago and has refused to pay them.
Terry L. Jackson, Patsy Jackson, Mark Jackson and Affordable Dental, Hearing and Chiropractic of Dupo filed a complaint June 10 in St. Clair County Circuit Court against American Family Mutual Insurance Company.
The plaintiffs say they are the three named insureds on the insurance policy American Family issued them with effective dates of Feb. 1, 1996, through Feb. 1, 1997.
The insurance policy was supposed to provide coverage for loss by fire, according to the complaint.
After Affordable Dental caught on fire at about 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 14, 1996, the plaintiffs submitted a claim for fire, smoke and water damages caused to their building located at 195 South Main St. in Dupo, the suit states.
In addition, they submitted their sworn statements in proof of loss and submitted to an examination under oath that took hours to complete, the complaint says.
However, American Family denied all their claims in a June 7, 1996, letter and has since refused to pay any of the claim, the plaintiffs allege.
"Defendant failed and refused to pay Plantitffs' fire insurance claim despite Defendant knowing that, at the time of the fire, Plaintiffs were victims of arson, not perpetrators of it, committed by arson suspect Charles Lynch, who was identified by Plaintiffs, who worked part-time as a janitor in the insured building," the complaint says. "Defendant failed and refused to pay Plaintiffs' fire insurance claim despite defendant having no substantial proof of any probative motive for Plaintiffs themselves to have caused the subject fire beyond mere speculation, guesswork and conjecture."
The plaintiffs say they are not the only ones to be affected from claim denials by American Family.
"Defendant has engaged in activities, including denying coverage for covered claims, particularly fire insurance property damage claims, which result in a disproportionate number of lawsuit having to be filed against the Insurer by its Insureds," the suit states.
Because of the insurance company's refusal to pay the claim, the plaintiffs say they have sustained damages of $669,125. The total damages include $331,500 for the building; $150,000 for business personal property contents; $100,000 for actual business income loss; $5,000 for arson award and $82,625 for fire scene debris removal and cleanup, according to the complaint.
In the four-count suit, the plaintiffs are seeking a judgment of at least $1,587,326.70, plus 5 percent pre-judgment interest, post-judgment interest at the maximum rate allowed by Illinois law and costs.
They will be represented by William S. Daniel II of Daniel Law Offices in St. Louis.
St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 09-L-307.