Voyager named in suit by policyholder seeking Hurricane Ike recovery payment

Kelly Holleran Jan. 15, 2009, 2:26am

A Jefferson County man has filed suit against Voyager Indemnity Insurance Company, alleging he was not paid money to which he was entitled after Hurricane Ike destroyed sections of his home.

When Elbert J. Espree Sr.'s property at 560 Devon St. in Beaumont sustained damages on Sept. 13 during the storm, he submitted a claim to Voyager, which had insured his property, according to the complaint filed Jan. 12 in Jefferson County District Court.

Espree requested Voyager cover the cost of repairs, the suit states.

However, Voyager improperly paid Espree for the replacement of his property, even though the policy provided coverage for losses, he claims.

Voyager told Espree it would not pay the full proceeds of the policy, although demand was made for it, which constitutes a breach of the insurance contract, the suit states.

"Defendant misrepresented to Plaintiff that the damage to the property was not in excess to the amount paid, even though the damage was caused by a covered occurrence," the suit states.

Voyager also failed to make an attempt to settle the Espree's claim in a fair manner, a violation of the Texas Insurance Code, unfair settlement practices, they claim.

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

Voyager failed to affirm or deny coverage of the claim within a reasonable time frame, the suit states.

In addition, it refused to fully compensate Espree, even thout it failed to conduct a reasonable investigation, Espree claims.

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

Espree is seeking three times his actual damages, plus consequential damages, attorney's fees, costs, post-judgment interest of 18 percent per annum and exemplary damages.

All in all, Espree is seeking total damages of less than $75,000.

Jason M. Byrd of Snider and Byrd in Beaumont will be representing him.

The case has been assigned to Judge Milton Shuffield, 13th District Court.

Case No. D183-006

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