Montgomery County residents file hurricane insurance suit in Jefferson County

Kelly Holleran Feb. 12, 2009, 5:19am

Two residents of The Woodlands have filed suit against Ranchers and Farmers Mutual Insurance Company and Southeast Surplus Underwriters General Agency, alleging they were not paid money to which they were entitled after Hurricane Ike destroyed sections of their home.

When Michelle Weishiemer's and David Aguilar's property at 19 Shimmer Pond Place in The Woodlands sustained roof and water damages on Sept. 13 during Hurricane Ike, they submitted a claim to Ranchers and Farmers, which had insured their property, according to the complaint filed Jan. 30 in Jefferson County District Court.

Weishiemer and Aguilar requested Ranchers and Farmers cover the cost of repairs, the suit states.

However, Ranchers and Farmers denied a portion of Weishiemer's and Aguilar's claim for the repairs of their property, even though the policy provided coverage for losses, she claims.

It denied the claim after assigning an adjuster from Southeast Surplus to adjust the claim, according to the complaint.

"Plaintiffs' claim(s) still remain unpaid and the Plaintiffs still have not been able to properly repair the Property," the suit states. "Plaintiffs cannot live in their house in its current condition. They have been forced to lease another house at their own expense because Defendants have not even properly paid Plaintiffs under their Loss of Use coverage under their policy."

Ranchers and Farmers told Reed 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.

"Defendants misrepresented to Plaintiffs that the damage to the Property was not covered under the Policy, even though the damage was caused by a covered occurrence," the suit states.

Ranchers and Farmers and Southeast Surplus also failed to make an attempt to settle Weishiemer's and Aguilar's claim in a fair manner, a violation of the Texas Insurance Code, unfair settlement practices, they claim.

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

Ranchers and Farmers and Southeast Surplus failed to affirm or deny coverage of the claim within a reasonable time frame, the suit states.

They refused to fully compensate Weishiemer and Aguilar, even though they did not conduct a reasonable investigation, which constitutes another violation of the Texas Unfair Competition and Unfair Practices Act, Weishiemer and Aguilar allege.

Ranchers and Farmers and Southeast Surplus breached their contract with Weishiemer and Aguilar by refusing to pay the policy, according to the complaint.

Ranchers and Farmers and Southeast Surplus violated the Deceptive Trade Practices Act by an unreasonable delay in the investigation, adjustment and resolution of the Weishiemer's and Aguilar's claim, by their failure to give Weishiemer and Aguilar the benefit of the doubt and by their failure to pay for the proper repair of Weishiemer's and Aguilar's home, the suit states.

Ranchers and Farmers and Southeast Surplus engaged in false, misleading and deceptive acts or practices in the business of insurance, according to the complaint.

The companies also engaged in unfair claims settlement practices, the suit states.

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

Jason D. Speights of Speights Law Firm in San Antonio will be representing them.

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

Case No. D183-165

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