Homeowners Claims And Limitations

Grand Prairie insurance lawyers need to look at the insurance policy first, when evaluating a claim. And one of the first things to look for in the policy is limitations on the dates when a claim must be filed.
The Galveston Division of U.S. District Court issued an opinion in 2015 dealing with a one year limitation in a policy. The style of the case is, Richard Batie and Connie Batie v. Southern Farm Bureau Property and Casualty Co.
This is a case wherein Southern Farm filed a motion for summary judgment based on limitations. The Batie’s home was damaged in flood waters during Hurricane Ike. Southern Farm sent out an adjuster and determined the Batie’s were owed $12,000. The Batie’s the hired a law firm which sent out a Proof of Loss (POL) for an additional $34,267.98, dated February 26, 2009. Southern Farm sent a letter dated April 9, 2009, denying the supplemental claim. On May 27, 2009, the law firm sent another letter seeking an additional $56,407.14, which was denied in a letter dated July 14, 2009. Then, the law firm sent another letter dated July 28, 2009, seeking policy limits of $349,000.00. The was rejected on August 4, 2009, by Southern Farm. On August 4, 2010, the Batie’s sued Southern Farm.
Southern Farm argued that the the Batie’s lawsuit was not timely filed and should be dismissed. It correctly points out that suit must be filed within one year of the written denial or partial denial of an insured’s claim. The Batie’s countered by arguing that the one-year limitations period begins only after written denial of a sworn POL and their lawsuit was, therefore, timely when filed within a year after the denial of the $340,000.00 POL.
Here, an existing POL was denied as early as April 9, 2009. Even using Southern Farm’s reliance only on the subsequent denial date of July 14, 2009, the limitations period expired before suit was filed on August 4, 2010. Had there been no previous denials of an actual POL, it could be argued that the $349,000.00 POL, filed within FEMA’s extension, was supplemental to the other two and together they constituted a single POL. At least one of the earlier denials in this case, however, triggered the limitations period. The filing of yet another, even timely POL, after the expiration of the one-year period cannot, without a FEMA waiver, reinstate it.
While a dismissal of Baties’ complaint may at first seem harsh, it is a common practice, in the absence of a Defendant’s agreement to waive a limitations defense, for a Plaintiff to file a lawsuit before the expiration of any applicable statute of limitations even though serious settlement negotiations of a Plaintiff’s claim are pending after a Defendant’s initial refusal to pay the claim.
In was opinion of this Court, the Baties’ suit was not timely filed.