Insurer sues client for blocking appraisal

Kelly Holleran Aug. 9, 2010, 5:17am

An insurance company has filed suit against one of its clients, alleging the client refuses to participate in an appraisal process regarding the amount of damage caused to her property following Hurricane Ike.

Republic Lloyds claims it issued an insurance policy to defendant Donna Peterson Stutes, which was in effect when Hurricane Ike struck on Sept. 13, 2008.

After the hurricane, Stutes filed a claim with Republic Lloyds, according to the complaint filed July 9 in Jefferson County District Court. However, because the two parties could not settle on the amount of the loss Stutes' Port Arthur property endured, they were supposed to enter into a new phase of negotiations.

In the new phase, both Stutes and Republic Lloyds were to appoint their own appraiser. From there, the two appraisers were to agree on an umpire.

The process was flowing smoothly -- both Stutes and Republic Lloyds had chosen appraisers and those appraisers had appointed an umpire. But on June 3, Stutes' attorney requested the 60th District Court appoint a new umpire.

Not knowing that both appraisers had already agreed on an umpire, Judge Gary Sanderson appointed another umpire, according to the complaint.

When Republic Lloyds discovered what Stutes' attorney had done, it protested, saying the court should have only been involved in the decision had the two appraisers not agreed on an umpire. Eventually, Sanderson rescinded his order, the suit states.
Stutes fought back, asking the court to remove the previously agreed upon umpire and to appoint a new one, the complaint says.

"To date, Defendant has refused to proceed with the appraisal process under the duly constituted appraisal panel," the suit states.

In its complaint, Republic Lloyds is asking the court to declare that Stutes is in breach of her insurance contract or to find that she is in anticipatory breach of the contract.

If Stutes continues to refuse to participate in the appraisal portion of the contract, Republic Lloyds wants the court to find that she is in material breach of the contract and has relinquished her right to recover any benefits.

Republic Lloyds is also seeking other relief the court deems just.

It will be represented by Karen L. Spivey of Pate and Spivey in Beaumont.

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

Jefferson County District Court case number: D187-250.

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