Historic Galveston condos say insurer mistake left units unprotected from storm

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Jan. 12, 2011, 8:12am

St. Germaine Place Condominiums in Galveston

GALVESTON – Arguing that omissions and an erroneous classification of its Galveston property resulted in a lack of full storm coverage, the St. Germain Place Owners Association has filed suit against Texas Farmers Insurance Co. and Jimmy Truitt Insurance Co.

Farmers and Truitt provided coverage to only three of the plaintiff's 11 condominium units and overlooked the building's pre-firm status when organizing a flood damage policy, a suit filed Jan. 6 in Galveston County District Court states.

The association hired insurance agent Truitt to obtain a Farmers policy for the homeowners. It was, however, alarmed to learn prior to Hurricane Ike that only a fraction of the units were insured, the original petition states.

The Category 2 hurricane made landfall on Galveston Island on Sept. 13, 2008, and inundated the complex, which is a three-story commercial structure with a historical designation.

St. Germain insists it promptly and accordingly reported the damage in question to Farmers and Truitt, but the defendants rated the building as an elevated beach house instead of a multiple story edifice on a slab.

"Although Farmers represents that only three units were covered and the building was insured as an elevated building with enclosure and that it was post firm, the declarations page for the policy is not clear," the suit says.

"The declarations page states that the covered structure is three or more floors, commercial, pre-firm and a high rise with ten units."

A simple inspection would have easily confirmed the building's appearance and layout, asserts the plaintiff.

The suit ultimately shows that St. Germain paid approximately $200,000 in considerable out-of-pocket costs to cover the force placed insurance and losses which were reportedly the defendants' responsibilities.

Consequently, the plaintiff seeks unspecified monetary damages and a jury trial.

It is represented by attorney Terri M. Garcia of Pearland.

The case has been assigned to Galveston County 56th District Court Judge Lonnie Cox.

Case No. 11-cv-0021

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