Insurer says Rainwater's damage not caused by rain or water

David Yates Jun. 27, 2007, 5:32am

David Wenholz

An Orange County resident submitted an insurance claim for damage sustained from Hurricane Rita, but the insurer says the damage was caused by termites, not the Category 3 storm.

Gary Rainwater filed a lawsuit against State Farm Lloyds with the Jefferson County District Court on June 25. He alleges the insurance company unfairly denied a portion of his property damage claim submitted following the hurricane that hit Southeast Texas in September 2005.

"As a result of the storm, plaintiff discovered his house sustained serious losses and damages during the policy period(s) and immediately reported a claim to his insurance company," the suit said. "Plaintiff satisfied all conditions precedent under the policy and under common law before bringing this action. The current losses and damages include, damage and/or losses to the roof and eaves, exterior and interior structure and detached buildings. The losses suffered were the type of loss plaintiff sought to insure against.

After Rainwater submitted his claim, State Farm sent adjuster Earl Hicks to inspect the property, the suit said.

"Hicks performed a cursory inspection of plaintiff's damaged home on Nov. 16, 2005," the suit said. "Hicks witnessed the significant damage to the home caused by the hurricane, was notified of the roof and consequential water damage to the interior of the home, yet denied the most significant damage due to alleged flood waters…and never investigated damages to the attic space."

Hicks wrote an estimate that all of his damages could be repaired for $955.53, the suit said. "Based on this investigation, defendant paid plaintiff $79.75 for repairs to the dwelling and $210.00 for damaged contents."

The suit says State Farm claimed the damaged was caused by termites.

"As a result of the cursory investigation and the underpayment/denial by defendant to repair the damage, plaintiff was not able to hire a contractor to repair the home," the suit said. "Plaintiff, therefore, asserts that defendant breached the insurance contract and breached the duty of good faith and fair dealing by failing to conduct a proper investigation and by underpaying the claim."

Rainwater also claims State Farm is guilty of violating the Texas Insurance Code and the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

He is suing the insurance provider for more than $75,000.

Rainwater is demanding a trial by jury and is represented by attorney David C. Wenholz of the Wenholz Law Firm.

Judge Gary Sanderson, 60th Judicial District, will preside over the case.

Case No. B179-563

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