PA couple sues insurance agents, adjusters over Rita damage claim

Kelly Holleran Oct. 27, 2008, 6:28am


A Port Arthur couple has filed suit against an insurance company and several agents and claims adjusters, alleging they were not adequately compensated after Hurricane Rita struck their house.

Melvin and Janet Hemphill own a house at 2035 Lakeshore Drive in Port Arthur that sustained roof, water, wind and structural damage during the hurricane on Sept. 24, 2005, according to a complaint filed Oct. 22 in Jefferson County District Court.

According to the suit, the couple bought an insurance policy from Gregory Jackson and Mahesh Makecha.

The Hemphills asked Capitol County Mutual Fire Insurance Company to cover the cost of repairs on the house, the suit states.

The complaint states that Capitol hired three people – Randall Chatagnier, Teka Merritt and Paul Gohlke – from Insurance Catastrophe Adjusters to adjust the Hemphills' claim.

The company denied the Hemphills' request, saying the damages were not covered under the policy, even though the Hemphills claim it was.

Capitol, its agents and the claim adjusters failed to conduct an adequate investigation, the Hemphills claim.

The suit names Capitol County, Jackson, Makecha, Insurance Catastrophe Adjusters, Chatagnier, Merritt and Gohlke as defendants.

"Specifically, Defendants performed an outcome-oriented investigation of Plaintiffs' claim, which resulted in a biased, unfair and inequitable evaluation of Plaintiffs' losses on the Property," the suit states.

Capitol's actions violate the Texas Insurance Code because it failed to accept or deny the Hemphills' full and entire claim within the mandated time, according to the complaint.

In addition, the company breached the common law duty of good faith and fair dealing by denying the payment, the Hemphills allege.

ICA also violated the Texas Insurance Code because it misrepresented material facts to the Hemphills, the suit states.

The three insurance adjusters are liable because they made false assertions, according to the complaint.

The two agents violated the Texas Insurance Code because they misrepresented material facts to the Hemphills, the couple claims.

The Hemphills are seeking unspecified actual, treble, punitive and exemplary damages.

In addition, they are seeking attorneys' fees, costs, prejudgment and post-judgment interest and other relief the court deems just.

They are represented by J. Steve Mostyn and Rene M. Sigman of The Mostyn Law Firm in Houston.

The case has been assigned to Judge Bob Wortham of the 58th District Court.

Case No. A182-576

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