An insurance company claims it was forced to pay a Pleasant Plains man $350,000 after his house caught on fire due to an improperly installed flue pipe.

Sentry Insurance filed a lawsuit May 3 in St. Clair County Circuit Court against Gene's Furnace Shop.

In its complaint, Sentry claims it was forced to dole out $350,000 for damages caused to Ryan Hildebrand's property at 6998 Salisbury Rd. after it was destroyed by a fire.

The fire ignited on Dec. 8, 2009, after a wood joist caught on flames because of an improperly installed flue pipe, according to the complaint.

Before the fire, Gene's Furnace Shop had installed the flue pipe, but did not do so in a safe manner, the suit states.

For example, when installing the flue pipe, Gene's negligently utilized a single wall furnace flue instead of a double wall, the complaint says. In addition, Gene's ran the flue horizontally to wood joists, failed to install the flue in conformity with manufacturer recommendations and industry standards and failed to supervise its workers as they installed the flue, Sentry claims.

At the time of the fire, Hildebrand had insurance through Sentry, so the insurance company was forced to pay him more than $350,000 for damages he sustained, according to the complaint.

In its two-count suit, Sentry seeks a judgment of more than $100,000, plus costs, pre- and post-judgment interest, attorney's fees and other relief the court deems just.

Robert W. Cockerham and Christopher J. Seibold of Brown and James in St. Louis will be representing them.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 11-L-255.

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