Capitol County, adjusters sued over Hurricane Rita claim

Kelly Holleran Jan. 14, 2009, 2:55am


A Jefferson County man has filed suit against Capitol County Mutual Fire Insurance Company, ICA Adjusters and two of its adjusters, alleging he was not paid money to which he was entitled after Hurricane Rita destroyed sections of his home.

When Eugene Harmon's property at 1310 18th St. in Port Arthur sustained roof, water, wind and structural damage on Sept. 24, 2005, during the storm, he submitted a claim to Capitol, which had insured his property, according to the complaint filed Jan. 9 in Jefferson County District Court.

Harmon requested Capitol cover the cost of repairs and asked for additional living expenses, the suit states.

However, Capitol denied Harmon's claim, even though his policy promised coverage for such losses, he claims.

It denied the claim after assigning two adjusters – Paul Gohlke and Theresa Ivory of ICA Adjusters, Inc. -- to adjust the claim, according to the complaint.

Capitol told Harmon the damage to his 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 Plaintiff's claim in a fair manner, although they were aware of their liability to Plaintiff under the Policy," the suit states.

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

The company failed to explain the reason for their offer of an inadequate settlement, another violation of the Texas Insurance Code, according to the complaint.

Capitol failed to fully compensate Harmon, even though it failed to conduct a reasonable investigation, the suit states.

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

Gohlke, Ivory and ICA violated the Texas Insurance Code because they misrepresented material facts relating to the coverage, according to the complaint.

Capitol, Saucier and ICA 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 Defendants knew were false or made recklessly without any knowledge of their truth as a positive assertion," the suit states.

Harmon is seeking actual, treble, punitive and exemplary damages, plus attorney's fees, costs, pre- and post-judgment interest and other relief to which he may be entitled.

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

The case has been assigned to Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd District Court.

Case No. E182-997

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