Business hit by car, owners sue insurance company for loss of income

Kelly Holleran Jun. 23, 2010, 7:30am

The owners of a Beaumont business allege their insurance company refuses to pay them money to replace their building that sustained severe damages after a driver rammed into it.

Henry and Delores Fruge doing business as Power Stretcher Carpet Co. claim they own a building at 502 S. Fourth St. in Beaumont that was insured through defendant Farmers Insurance Exchange.

On Jan. 21, the building sustained severe damages after defendant Donald Ray Slaughter drove a 1999 red Ford Crown Victoria at a high rate of speed on S. Fourth, causing him to lose control of his vehicle.

According to the complaint filed June 10 in Jefferson County District Court, Slaughter's car slid sideways, left the road, struck a utility and continued through the Fruges' building.

Following the collision, Beaumont police cited Slaughter for failing to maintain a single lane and for unsafe speed, the suit states.

Meanwhile, the accident destroyed the Fruges' carpet showroom, causing the building's wall and roof to collapse, the complaint says.

"What remains of the building is unsafe and unusable, and Plaintiffs have been forced to operate their business from their home," the suit states.

"As a result of this destruction, Plaintiffs have lost and will continue to lose income from the operation of their business, in addition to suffering the loss of samples, carpet stock and supplies. As a result of the devastation caused by Slaughter, the business has suffered a tremendous loss of income."

Immediately after the incident, the Fruges say they filed a claim with Farmers for business personal property damage, structural damage and business income loss.

Farmers assigned defendants Lisa Ann Green and Meika D. Berry to investigate the Fruges' claim, according to the complaint. However, Green and Berry were not properly trained and inadequate to perform a thorough inspection of the property, the suit states.

After the investigation, Farmers allowed for repair of the premises, but not replacement, the complaint says.

"The sums allowed were insufficient to put the building in a condition safe for use for business purposes," the suit states. "To this date, Plaintiffs have yet to receive full payment under the insurance policy."

The Fruges allege noncompliance with Texas Insurance Code, fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud against Green, Berry and Farmers. The couple alleges breach of contract, noncompliance with the Texas Insurance Code: The Prompt Payment of Claims and breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing. They allege negligence against Slaughter.

The Fruges are seeking actual, treble, punitive and exemplary damages, plus costs, pre- and post-judgment interest and other relief the court deems just.

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

The case has been assigned to Bob Wortham, 58th District.

Jefferson County District Court case number: A187-056.

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