Couple sues Texas insurer over unpaid Hurricane Humberto claim

Kelly Holleran Jan. 5, 2009, 5:31am

Steve Mostyn

A Jefferson County couple has filed suit against Texas Farmers Insurance and eight adjusters, alleging they were not paid money to which they were entitled after Hurricane Humberto destroyed sections of their home.

When John and Tammie Burdens' property at 14290 Dubois Road in Beaumont sustained roof, water, wind, contents and structural damage on Sept. 13, 2007, from the storm, they submitted a claim to Texas Farmers Insurance, which had insured their property, according to the complaint filed Dec. 16 in Jefferson County District Court.

The Burdens requested Texas Farmers Insurance cover the cost of repairs, the suit states.

However, Texas Farmers Insurance denied the Burdens' claim, even though their policy promised coverage for such losses, the couple claims.

It denied the claim after assigning eight adjusters – Mark Maddox, Kathia Nieves, Kara Lampton, John Giardino, Cheryl Deshon, Jenna Hernandez, Amy St. Clair and Lorenia Rodriguez -- to adjust the claim, according to the complaint.

The company told the Burdens the damage to their property was not covered under the claim, which constitutes a violation of the Texas Insurance Code, unfair settlement practices, the suit states.

"Defendants failed to make an attempt to settle Plaintiffs' claim in a fair manner, although they were aware of their liability to Plaintiffs under the Policy," the suit states.

The insurer failed to explain the reason for their offer of an inadequate settlement.

Texas Farmers Insurance also failed to affirm or deny coverage of the Burdens' claim within a reasonable time, another violation of the Texas Insurance Code, unfair settlement practices, the Burdens claim.

The company's behavior constitutes a breach of contract because it did not live up to promises made in its insurance policy with the Burdens, according to the complaint.

The eight adjusters violated the Texas Insurance Code because they misrepresented material facts relating to the coverage, according to the complaint.

The adjusters are also liable for common law fraud, the suit states.

"Each and every one of the representations, as described above, concerned material facts for the reason Plaintiffs would not have acted and which Maddox, Nieves, Lampton, Giardino, Deshon, Hernanadez, St. Clair and Rodriguez knew were false or made recklessly without any knowledge of their truth as a positive assertion," the suit states.

The Burdens are seeking actual, treble, punitive and exemplary damages, plus attorney's fees, costs, pre- and post-judgment interest and other relief to which they may be entitled.

Michael R. Ramsey and J. Steve Mostyn of The Mostyn Law Firm in Houston will be representing them.

The case has been assigned to Judge Milton Shuffield of the 136th District Court.

Case No. D182-867

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