Farmers sued over Hurricane Ike claim

Kelly Holleran Feb. 18, 2009, 1:18am

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

When Pete Zavala's property at 9336 FM 365 in Beaumont sustained dwelling and contents damages on Sept. 13 during Hurricane Ike, he submitted a claim to Farmers, which had insured his property, according to the complaint filed Feb. 10 in Jefferson County District Court.

Zavala requested Farmers cover the cost of repairs, the suit states.

However, Farmers improperly adjusted Zavala's claim for the repairs of his property, even though the policy provided coverage for losses, he claims.

Farmers told Zavala 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.

Farmers also failed to make an attempt to settle Zavala's claim in a fair manner, a violation of the Texas Insurance Code, unfair settlement practices, he claims.

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.

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

It refused to fully compensate Zavala, even though it did not conduct a reasonable investigation, which constitutes another violation of the Texas Unfair Competition and Unfair Practices Act, he alleges.

Farmers breached its contract with Zavala by refusing to pay the policy, according to the suit.

Zavala is seeking three times his actual damages, plus 18 percent post-judgment interest per annum and exemplary damages.

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

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

Case No. D183-249

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