Couple seeks treble damages from insurer over Hurricane Rita claim

Kelly Holleran Jan. 15, 2009, 2:34am

A Jefferson County couple has filed suit against Capitol County Mutual Fire Insurance Company, alleging they were not paid money to which they were entitled after Hurricane Rita destroyed sections of their home.

When Clarence and Ella Hopes' property at 3113 13th St. in Port Arthur suffered damages on Sept. 24, 2005, during the storm, they submitted a claim to Capitol, which had insured their property, according to the complaint filed Jan. 12 in Jefferson County District Court.

The Hopes requested Capitol cover the cost of repairs, the suit states.

However, Capitol improperly paid the Hopes for the replacement of their property, even though the policy provided coverage for losses, they claim.

Capitol told the Hopes 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.

Capitol also failed to make an attempt to settle the Hopes' 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 their offer of an inadequate settlement, another violation of the Texas Insurance Code, according to the complaint.

Capitol failed to affirm or deny coverage of the claim within a reasonable time frame, 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 the Hopes, according to the complaint.

The Hopes are seeking three times their actual damages, plus consequential damages, attorney's fees, costs, post-judgment interest of 18 percent per annum and exemplary damages.

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

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

Case No. E183-007

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