Insurance companies have been defending themselves in thousands of Southeast Texas lawsuits since Hurricane Rita, but in a recent suit it is the insurer taking a roofing company to court. Fire Insurance Exchange is suing Tony and Jennifer Bluel, individually and doing business as Ace Roofing and Remodeling.

The suit was filed Oct. 22 in Jefferson County District Court on behalf of policy holders William and Patricia Keprta.

According to the plaintiffs' original petition, on Dec. 4, 2005, the Keprta's house on Bridge Street in Beaumont was undergoing roof repair by Ace, when it caught fire due to the defendants' negligence.

The property was severely damaged by fire, smoke, water, moisture, mold and mildew.

"Immediately before said damage, the property was in a first-class condition," wrote plaintiffs' attorney Russell Little in the original petition. "Immediately following said damage, the property had a reasonable market value in and around Jefferson County of $85,213.60 less than its value immediately preceding said damage."

In addition, the plaintiffs claim that the cost to repair the damage and restore the home to its former condition was $85,213.60.

"Plaintiff would show that such costs were necessary and reasonable in and around said county and did not enhance the value of the property beyond its reasonable market value prior to the damage," the petition states.

The plaintiffs allege that the insureds' damages were caused by negligent application and repair of the roof, negligent use of a blow torch, negligent supervision of employees and negligent training of employees.

"Further, defendant Paul Anthony Bluel aka Tony Bluel aka Anthony Bluerl, was negligent in that he personally did not properly oversee or insure that those using blow torches or working on the roof were careful and not set fire to the house," the petition states.

Bluel was grossly negligent, the plaintiffs allege, because instead of being on the roof with his employees, he "stayed in the yard visiting with other people," when he knew of the danger that the plaintiffs' home was in.

Plaintiffs also allege that defendant "either expressly or impliedly warranted their product and services to be fit and free from defects." The services were not free from defects, the plaintiffs allege, "evidenced by the fact that their services burned the house down."

Ace is a family owned business that has been serving the Southeast Texas area since 1983 and is a member of the Better Business Bureau.

Fire Insurance Exchange insured the Keprta's house for $85,213.60 with a $1,000 deductible.

"Plaintiff is subrogated to its insured for these damages and sues defendants for the said amount," the petition states.

The plaintiffs are also seeking court costs, interest and other relief to which it may be entitled.

The Culp & Little law firm in Houston is representing the plaintiff.

The case has been assigned to Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd District Court.

Case No. E180-561

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