Attorneys reap more than clients in Jefferson County hurricane damage trial

David Yates Oct. 27, 2010, 7:58am


A three-week long trial against Liberty Lloyds ended Friday, with jurors concluding the insurance provider failed to pay all damages owed to John and Deborah Cahill following Hurricane Rita.

The verdict totaled $575,500, with jurors awarding $230,500 to the Cahills and an additional $344,000 to their attorneys.

Court records show the Cahills filed suit against Liberty Lloyds, Liberty Mutual and claims adjuster Robert Sherman in August 2007, claiming the defendants failed to fully compensate them after

Hurricane Rita damaged their Beaumont home in September 2005.

During the trial, the couple testified that they received money for their claim, but maintained Liberty should have paid additional funds to replace all their windows and roof, among other needed repairs.

They claimed that after the storm, "a river of mold" gushed throughout their entire home.

An adjuster for Liberty testified that the insurance company eventually paid all damages owed under their policy, and that considering the extensive destruction Rita caused throughout Southeast Texas some confusion, delay and error was to be expected.

After the Sept. 24, 2005, storm, the Cahills submitted a claim for water and wind damage, requesting living expenses as well, court papers say.

The insurance company sent Sherman to adjust the claim. He was non-suited by the Cahills last May.

Although jurors found that Liberty failed to comply with the Cahills' policy, they concluded that the insurance company did not act with malice and declined to award exemplary damages to the couple.

Thousands of suits have been filed against insurance companies over damage claims caused by Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Ike, but very few actually make it to trial. More than a dozen attorneys attended the Cahill trial to see the proceedings and the outcome.

The Cahills are represented in part by Houston attorney Steve Mostyn, who has filed thousands of hurricane damage claim suits in Southeast Texas courts.

Liberty was represented in part by attorney Christopher Martin of Houston law firm Martin, Disiere, Jefferson & Wisdom.

Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd District Court, presided over the trial.

Case No. E179-743

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