Three new Rita insurance suits filed Wednesday

David Yates Aug. 16, 2007, 6:00am

Attorney Hart Green filed three separate deceptive trade practice lawsuits against insurance companies over unpaid Hurricane Rita claims with the Jefferson County District Court on Aug. 15.

The first suit, Chris E. and Lavonne M. Dobson vs. Travelers Lloyds of Texas Insurance Co., claims the plaintiff's hurricane claim "was not properly or timely paid." Judge Gary Sanderson, 60th Judicial District, will preside over the case. Case No. B179-823

The two remaining suits mirror the first one and read as follows:
David and Martha Kapparis vs. Texas Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. Judge Bob Wortham, 58th Judicial District, presiding. Case No. A179-824.

Sandra Carrington vs. Travelers Lloyds of Texas Insurance Co. Judge Milton Shuffield, 136th Judicial District, presiding. Case No. D179-825.

Green, attorney for the Weller, Green, Toups & Terrell law firm, says in his suit that Hurricane Rita damages all three of his clients' homes. He says his clients submitted claims and the insurance company sent adjusters who performed a bias outcome oriented investigations.
"Defendant(s) wrongfully failed to comply with the terms of the contract," the suit said. (They) are therefore, in breach of the contract of insurance issued to plaintiffs."

The suits says the insurance adjusters failed to properly research the wind forces caused by the hurricane; failed to investigate the condition of plaintiffs' residence prior to the hurricane; and failed to properly inspect plaintiffs' residence.

The suit also faults the insurance companies listed in the suit with committing deceptive trade practice violations and bad faith dealing.
"The Defendant(s) breached (their) duty of good faith and fair dealing ('Bad Faith') owed to plaintiffs," the suits say. "The defendant(s) denied some claims and delayed payment of other claims when liability was reasonably clear and this was a proximate cause of plaintiffs' damages.

"At the time of the denial the insurers knew, or least had substantial certainly, that there was no reasonable basis for delaying or denying the claims. Coverage was clear. The denial and delays were done after an investigation which was not thorough and was not performed in good faith. The investigation was, in effect, an outcome oriented investigation, used as a pretext to deny or delay payment."

The suits go on to say that the insurance companies caused the plaintiffs emotional distress.

"Acts and omissions of the insurance companies, by having a plan or scheme in place to undervalue and wrongfully deny claims was done with the goal of forcing plaintiffs to accept an amount of money less than what was actually owed," the suits say. "These acts and omissions were done intentionally or recklessly, with the goal of causing severe emotional distress.

"The acts and omissions of defendant(s), in taking advantage of individuals who have been injured or harmed by a natural disaster is extreme and outrageous. It was the proximate cause of the plaintiffs' emotion distress."

Furthermore, the suits fault the insurance companies of committing Common Law Fraud.

"The defendant(s) made various representations to the plaintiffs, including whether or not claims were covered and/or the value of claims, which were material and false," the suits say. "At the time the defendant(s) made the representations they knew the representations were false or made the representations recklessly as a positive assertion without knowledge of the truth.

"The defendant(s) made these representations with the intent that the plaintiffs act on them by not further pursuing claims and/or thinking there was no other money to recover. Plaintiffs relied on the representations and this caused injury."

A breach of fiduciary duty is a form of constructive fraud. The actions of the Defendants constitute constructive fraud and fraud by non-disclosure, the suits say.

"Defendant(s) had a duty to plaintiffs to disclose the extent and value of damages suffered by plaintiffs, but concealed from, or failed to disclose these facts to, plaintiffs," the suits say. "The facts were material and the defendant knew that the plaintiffs were ignorant of the facts and that plaintiffs did not have an equal opportunity to discover the facts.

"In that vein, the insurance companies with their adjusters are more sophisticated than the average insured in evaluating and adjusting claims. Plaintiffs would not be entitled to adjust their own claim. Defendant was deliberately silent when they owed a duty to advise plaintiffs of the damages and the extent of the damages. By failing to disclose these facts the defendants intended to induce the plaintiffs to accept or take less money than what was actually owed on the claim. Plaintiffs relied on the non-disclosure and were injured."

In addition, the suits also accuse the insurance companies of theft of property.

"Plaintiffs are the owners of money being held by defendants," the suit says. "It is money which is due and owed to plaintiffs. They have a possessory right to the property. The defendants have unlawfully appropriated the property by taking it without plaintiffs' consent. Defendant has appropriated the property with the intent to deprive plaintiffs of the property, and plaintiffs have sustained damages.

"Defendant has acquired the premiums paid by plaintiffs, earned interest on these funds, acquired or exercised control over this property, and owe this money to plaintiffs, pursuant to the contract.

Lastly, the suits say the insurance companies are guilty of breach of warranty and negligent hiring.

"Defendants owe plaintiffs a legal duty to hire, supervise, train and retain competent employees and/or adjusters, and their attorney-in-fact," the suits say. "Defendants breached this duty and this caused injury to plaintiffs."

The plaintiffs are suing for economic, statutory and Common Law damages, plus mental anguish, interest and all court costs.

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