East St. Louis landlord sues insurer seeking payout on fire claim

By Steve Korris | Oct 17, 2013

Ed Sieron, who calls his businesses “technical owners” of homes in one suit, seeks a tenant’s fire insurance payout as true owner in another suit.

Sieron claims Metropolitan Casualty owes $63,473.79 to E&L, one of his companies, on a policy the insurer issued to Danisha Combs.

Her home, at 1529 N. 43rd St. in East St. Louis, caught fire on Oct. 2 of last year.

Combs had paid the premiums, according to Belleville lawyer Stephen Clark, but an agreement for deed assigned any insurance payment to a debt she owed E&L.

Clark filed the suit in St. Clair County circuit court on Sept. 24, and Metropolitan Casualty removed it to U.S. District Court on Oct. 9.

The insurer invoked diversity jurisdiction because it organized in Rhode Island and Sieron, E&L’s sole member, lives in Florida.

Sieron’s assertion of absolute interest doesn’t match his posture in a class action against East St. Louis and trash hauler Waste Management.

In that case, Belleville lawyer Alvin Paulson argues that Sieron’s businesses qualify as families or households under debt collection law.

“Plaintiffs engage in selling residential lease-to-own homes whereby the plaintiffs retain title to the home and occupier pays rent until a set period of time passes where the renter will then have the option to buy the house using some of the rent already paid as a down payment of sorts,” Paulson wrote on Oct. 7.

Paulson claims the city improperly acts as debt collector for Waste Management.

In the complaint against Metropolitan Casualty, Clark wrote that Combs and E&L applied through a broker and received a policy for the intended benefit of E&L.

A fire totally destroyed the property and Combs mailed a loss statement to Metropolitan Casualty this Jan. 13, Clark wrote.

On April 24, agents of E&L participated in an examination under oath and surrendered documents evidencing its interest in the property, Clark wrote.

The lawsuit alleges that Metropolitan Casualty’s refusal to pay constitutes breach of contract.

Clark added a count of vexatious refusal under Illinois insurance code, seeking a civil penalty up to 60 percent of any judgment.

He also alleged negligence against insurance agent Tina Ledbetter of Smithton, writing that she had a fiduciary duty to exercise skill and diligence in the transaction.

Ledbetter is accused of failing to inform the insurer of E&L’s interest in the policy.

The state’s high risk fire insurance pool "FAIR Plan" excluded Sieron’s properties in 2002, due to high losses.

Hanover Fire and Casualty sued him in 2006, claiming he dodged the exclusion by obtaining policies in the names of tenants.

Hanover and Sieron settled the suit in 2007. 




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