Accused Of Arson

Homeowners in Grand Prairie, Arlington, Irving, Duncanville, De Soto, Cedar Hill, Dalworthington Gardens, Fort Worth, Dallas, and other places in Texas might be interested in this story. It has to do with insurance and arson.
The story is from knoxnews.com and was written by Jamie Satterfield. The article was published on May 27, 2011, and is titled “Vonore couple accused of arson: Insurance firm sues, claiming pair blamed neighbor as cover-up.”
The article tell us that the insurance company, American National Property and Casualty Company, a Missouri based insurance company, is accusing a lesbian couple of being arsonists who burned down their own home to receive the insurance proceeds. The couple say they are victims of hate crime.
The insurance company filed a lawsuit in a United States District Court against Carol Ann Stutte and Laura Jean Stutte, accusing them of torching their house and mounting a cover-up of the crime that included publicly blaming a gay-bashing neighbor for the fire.
The article tells us that the Stuttes’ house was destroyed in a blaze reported September 4, 2011. They said then that the word “Queers” had been spray-painted in black letters on a detached garage near the charred ruins and blamed a neighbor Janice Millsaps in both media interviews and a lawsuit filed against Millsaps in Monroe County Chancery Court.
In the Stuttes’ lawsuit, their attorney alleged Millsaps “repeatedly threatened the lives of the Stuttes” and also “specifically and repeatedly threatened to burn the Stuttes’ house.”
The Stuttes claimed in the lawsuit that Millsaps, a month before the fire, said to them: “Do you know what is better than one dead queer? Two dead queers.”
Millsaps denied any role in the fire and has not been charged despite extensive probes by the FBI. the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and local arson investigators, according to Millsaps’ attorney.
American National notified the Stuttes last week that the company would not pay their claim, which the lawsuit totaled to just more than $276,000, and filed its case in the federal court.
“It was determined through investigation that the preponderance of evidence shows that the loss was intentionally caused by the Stuttes,” according to the Chattanooga attorney who filed the lawsuit.
The federal lawsuit also accuses the Stuttes of “concealment and fraud” for “swearing that the loss did not originate by any act, design, or procurement on their part and statements made and documents submitted during the investigation of the loss.”
The author of the article tried to get hold of the Stuttes and their attorney for comment and had been unsuccessful in both cases.
Noteworthy, is that the Stuttes attorney, earlier in the year, had accused the insurance company of intentionally dragging its feet in responding to the couple’s fire claim and requests for living expenses payments under the provisions of the couple’s insurance plan.
In earlier interviews the Stuttes attorney had claimed that she was having to “fight and claw for simple insurance reimbursement checks.” At that time the Stuttes were having to continue paying their $1,200 monthly mortgage, taxes and insurance premiums on the burned house while also spending $900 to rent another place to live.
American National is asking the federal Judge, Senior United States District Judge Leon Jordan, to declare the Stuttes’ insurance plan void as a result of their alleged arson and cover-up.
As a side note, the Stuttes’ mortgage lender, Chase Home Finance, is listed as a defendant in the case because they may have a stake in the outcome.
It is probably safe to say that anytime an insured structure burns, that the insurance company is going to investigate for arson. In Texas, the Texas Government Code, Section 417.001 thru 417.010, designates the State Fire Marshall as being responsible for investigation of arson claims.
Anytime an insurance company does not promptly pay a fire claim, the insured should seek the immediate help of an experienced Insurance Law Attorney.