Articles Posted in Home Owners Policies

Stephenville homeowner lawyers need to read this opinion from the United States 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.  The opinion is styled, State Farm Fire & Casualty v. Cedric Flowers.

This is a appeal from a summary judgment granted in favor of State Farm in a declaratory judgement action.

In 2008, Cedric and Renee Flowers purchased a plot of land and asked Ricky and Jennifer Scott to build a house for them on the property.  The Flower’s were unable to get financing, so they quit claimed the property to the Scotts, who then obtained a construction loan under their own names, using the property as collateral.  The property was to be conveyed back to the Flowers after the house was built.  The Scotts eventually defaulted on the loan amid disputes with the Flower’s and a lawsuit resulted over the property.

Parker county insurance lawyers will see lots of homeowners claims resulting from hail damage claims.  When this occurs and the insurance company does not want to pay the claim and a lawsuit is filed, the likely result is the insurance company trying to have the case heard in Federal Court.  An Eastern District, Sherman Division opinion deals with this situation.  The opinion is styled, Lopez v. Allstate Vehicle and Property Insurance Company.

When a hail storm hit the Lopez home, a claim was filed with Allstate.  The adjuster, Gary Harbison was assigned to investigate the claim and he concluded there was no damage and any potential damage had occurred prior to the storm.  A lawsuit was filed and Harbison was sued with the allegations against him being that he conducted a substandard and improper investigation, that he was scared of losing his job, and he was fraudulent in his report because the Lopez’s public adjuster had found much more damage.  Lopez claims damages totaling $30,646.73.

The lawsuit was filed in Denton County Court alleging breach of contract, violations of the Texas DTPA, and violations of the Texas Insurance Code, fraud, negligence, and gross negligence.

House fire claims being denied is a regular part of doing for insurance law lawyers.  “The Tribune” published a story in March titled, Tracking Phones: Insurers Deny Claims Based On Doubtful Data.  Here is what the story tells us.

It took Jaclyn Bentley nearly three years to prove she didn’t burn her house down for the insurance money, allegations she and her lawyer say were born of the junk practice of analyzing cellphone tower data.

She was camping with her husband and co-workers at least 17 miles from her Iowa home in May 2014 when it burned down, she says.  An investigator for State Farm Fire said cell tower data showed Bentley’s phone was 5 to 12 miles from the campsite in the direction of her home just after the fire was reported – the suggestion being she could have been heading back to camp after starting the blaze.

Coastal Texans – you have to know your flood insurance policies.  This is perfectly illustrated in a 2016, Southern District, Galveston Division, opinion.  It is styled, Lobeck v. Licatino, et al.

The case was decided on a summary judgment.

In a nutshell, Lobeck bought property that, unknown to her, was located within the boundaries of the Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS).  Lobeck’s mortgage loan required her to maintain flood insurance on the property so she innocently procured an NFIP through the Defendants in this case.  The policy was subsequently reissued and then renewed the following year.  During the renewal year Hurricane Ike completely destroyed the building on the property and only then was Lobeck informed that her policy was void and had never afforded overage.  She received nothing for her property damage.  Consequently, Lobeck filed suit alleging that the Defendants knew or should have known that the property was ineligible for flood insurance under the NFIP, that the policy was void when issued, and that the policy offered absolutely no coverage.  According to Lobeck, the express and implicit misrepresentations of the Defendants, upon which she ignorantly, but reasonably relied, caused her losses.

The Fort Worth Court of Appeals issued an opinion in February 2017, that is good reading for insurance lawyers.  It essentially points out in a case, what was not done correctly.  The opinion is styled, Seim v. Allstate Texas Lloyds.

This is claim against a homeowners policy issued by Allstate to the Seims.  It is an appeal from a summary judgment in favor of Allstate.  The Allstate policy provided coverage on the Seims home for the period April 27, 2013, through April 27, 2014.  On or about August 28, 2013, the Seims notified Allstate of damage that had occurred earlier in August.  The property was inspected on or about September 10.  The adjuster, Scott, testified in deposition that the Seims’ property had some interior water damage, but the roof did not have any wind or hail damage.  Scott further testified that in order for the interior water damage to be covered under the Seims’ policy, “there had to be an opening in the roof caused by wind or hail … and the Seims did not have that.  The claim was denied by Allstate and a few months later the Seims sued Allstate for insurance code violations and breach of contract.

In the pleading filed by the Seims, they claimed damage was caused by storms in 2013, April 2007, April 2008, and May 2012.  In their lasted amended pleading, references to the 2007, 2008, and 2012, storms was removed.

The Insurance Journal published an article on an opinion issued by the Texas Supreme Court that will have an impact on all property owners in the State of Texas.  The title of the article is, Texas High Court Sides With Policyholder In Ike Damaged Property Case.

When is a fence a “dwelling” structure for insurance coverage purposes and when is it an “other structure?”

The Texas Supreme Court, relying on disputed language in a Liberty Mutual homeowners policy, found that a fence is a covered dwelling structure when it is attached to the home.

Persons with homeowners insurance policies are in a better place today than they were before January 27, 2017.  Insurance lawyers in Mason Texas, Menard, Junction, Grand Prairie, Arlington, Dallas, Fort Worth, and all over Texas need to celebrate a recent Texas Supreme Court opinion.  The opinion is styled, Nassar v. Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company, et al.

The Nassars’ suffered losses after Hurricane Ike hit there home and damaged various parts of their property.  Disputes arose over the value of various items damaged including the Nassars’ damaged fencing.

In addition to their residence, the Nassars’ property contains barns, outbuildings, and a system of fencing.  The system of fencing spans over 4,000 linear feet, includes a white picket fence at the northeast corner of the dwelling, an ornamental iron fence … in front of the dwelling, numerous cross fences, garden fences and pens, and a large perimeter fence constructed of 2′ x 6′ lumber with wooden posts and eight foot intervals, on which welded wire mesh is attached.

Lawyers in Mason Texas who handle insurance claims know that many accidents are covered by a persons’ homeowners insurance.  But, intentional acts are not covered.  The Claims Journal published an article discussing this issue in January 2017.  The title of the article is, No Homeowner Liability Coverage For an Insured’s Negligent Assault, Even If Insured Was Intoxicated.

Nicholas Fiocchi sued Ronald Zatyco for assaulting him after a verbal argument between them at a bar earlier the same evening.  Fiocchi’s complaint attempted by artful pleading to capture Zatyco’s parents’ homeowners coverage, alleging that the assault was made “negligently” and “without provocation,” but offering no other factual detail.  In fact, the complaint was limited to just four paragraphs and, significantly, did not allege that Zatyco consumed any alcohol, was intoxicated or in any way cognitively impaired at the time of the assault.

Zatyco asked his parents’ homeowners insurer, Nationwide Property & Casualty, to defend and indemnify him against Fiocchi’s claim.  Nationwide defended Zatyco under a reservation of rights but refused to agree to indemnify him.  Instead, Nationwide brought its own lawsuit against Zatyco federal court to support a denial of all coverage for the claim.

The Insurance Journal has published an article that insurance lawyers and anybody who has property insurance needs to pay attention to.  The article is titled, Battle Over Property Claims And Litigation In Texas Set To Continue In 2017.

If a Dec. 1, 2016, hearing is any indication, Texas lawmakers will be encouraged in the coming leg­islative session to take up what the property/casualty insurance industry claims to be a problematic trend following sever weather-related events in the state: increased attorney and public adjuster involvement in residential property damage claims.

The Texas House of Representatives, Insurance Committee heard testimony from invited speakers about the preliminary results of a Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) study aimed at gathering information on residential property claims and any resulting litigation.  The legislature had asked TDI to study whether the data showed a trend of increased public adjuster or increased attorney involvement and, if so, to identify what impact such a trend might have on the property insurance market in the state.  This writer would argue that whether or not there is such a trend, it would be important to know what is the cause of the trend, i.e., impropriety on the part of the insurance companies or on the part of public adjusters or on the part of attorneys.

For lawyers handling homeowners claims, a 14th Court of Appeals opinion needs to be read.  The case is styled, American Risk Insurance Company, Inc. v. Veronika Serpikova.

Veronika purchased a house in Houston (the Property).  She purchased a policy to insure the house from American.  At first, Veronika and her husband lived in the house but in May 2012, they moved to another location.  They leased the Property to two tenants, and did not move back into the Property.

On September 6, 2012, a renewal homeowner’s insurance policy became effective.  American issued the policy and Veronika was the named insured.  In November 2012, a fire severely damaged the Property.  Veronika made a claim and it was denied.  The denial was based on the fact that Veronika did not reside at the Property at the time of the loss and thus, the Property did not fall within the Policy’s definition of “residence premises” as required for dwelling coverage under the Policy.