Hail Claims And Trial

Hail damage claims often get resolved short of an actual trial.  The Houston Court of Appeals [1st Dist.] issued an opinion on a trial from a District Court.  The opinion is styled, Mark Groba v. German American Farm Mutual Insurance Company.

After Hurricane Ike hit his area, Groba made a claim for hail and wind damage to his property.  His insurer, German American, sent an adjuster who believed the loss totaled an amount slightly above Groba’s deductible.  Based on this low estimate, Groba filed a lawsuit against Great American for violations of the Texas Insurance Code.

Groba hired a construction expert and investigator, Daryl Quinney, who concluded the damage was far above the deductible amount.  Quinney visited the property twice at least six months after the hurricane.  He testified that in conducting his investigation and making his estimate, he assumed that the damages he observed did not exist before Hurricane Ike, saying:  “I was there to do a Hurricane Ike investigation so, therefore, my assumption is those damages resulted from the wind of Hurricane Ike.”  His estimate of damages was based on his observations, photographs, and loss estimation software.

At trial, Quinney testified that the roof sustained the following damage due to hurricane-force winds:  (1) the roof panels lifted; (2) fasteners came off: and (3) flying debris struck and damaged roof panels, causing dents in the bottom edge of the panels.  He opined that the cause of the roof damage was “wind speed and uplift of Hurricane Ike.”  He also opined that the most cost-effective repair would be to fully replace the metal roof.  Despite having found no water intrusion beneath the metal roof, he expected to find water intrusion that would warrant replacement of part of the roof decking, and he included the cost for that in his estimate as well.  In addition, and without knowing if there was any moisture in the attic, he recommended treating the attic with a chemical to prevent the growth of mildew.  Quinney also found exterior damages related to a cornice, painted plywood siding, and a damaged window that needed replacement.  His total written for repairs, which was admitted into evidence at trial, was $27,934.25.  But Quinney’s written estimate was divided into five categories, each with a subtotal, and the sum of the five subtotals was $22,815.71, not $27,934.25.

Despite the discrepancies in Quinney’s estimate, Groba’s theory was that German American had not conducted an adequate investigation to determine the full amount of damages caused by Hurricane Ike.  Groba argued at trial that this failure led to the inadequate offer from German American.

There was much other testimony to call into question whether Quinney could be believed or not.  This appeal from a jury finding in favor of German American was based on Groba’s assertion that the evidence in favor of Groba was too great for the jury to have ignored and the finding in favor of Great American was in error.

This appeals Court ruled that it was the jury’s job to decide on the credibility of the witnesses and that the jury could decide who to believe and who not to believe and thus, up-held the findings of the jury.