Beaumont woman sues insurer, agents, adjusters for failing to pay Rita claim

By Kelly Holleran | Dec 9, 2008

A Jefferson County woman has filed suit against Empire Indemnity Insurance Company, ZC Sterling Insurance Agency, Claim Adjustment Specialists and two of it adjusters, alleging she was not paid money to which she was entitled after Hurricane Rita destroyed sections of her home.

When Dorothy Boxie's property at 33115 Tracy St. in Beaumont sustained roof, water, foundation and wind damage on Sept. 24, 2005, during the storm, she submitted a claim to Empire and ZC Sterling, which had insured her property, according to the complaint filed Dec. 5 in Jefferson County District Court.

Boxie requested Empire and ZC Sterling cover the cost of repairs and asked for additional living expenses, the suit states.

However, Empire and ZC Sterling denied Boxie's claim, even though their policy promised coverage for such losses, she claims.

It denied the claim after assigning two adjusters from Claim Adjustment Specialists � Sandra Kohlenberg and Ernest Rutledge � to adjust the claim, according to the complaint.

Empire and ZC Sterling told Boxie the damage to her property was not covered under the claim, which constitutes a violation of the Texas Insurance Code, unfair settlement practices, the suit states.

"Defendants failed to make an attempt to settle Plaintiffs' claim in a fair manner, although they were aware of their liability to Plaintiff under the Policy," the suit states.

Empire and ZC Sterling also failed to affirm or deny coverage of Boxie's claim within a reasonable time, another violation of the Texas Insurance Code, unfair settlement practices, she claims.

Empire's and ZC Sterling's behavior constitutes a breach of contract because it did not live up to promises made in its insurance policy with Boxie, according to the complaint.

The adjusters violated the Texas Insurance Code because they misrepresented material facts relating to the coverage, according to the complaint.

The adjusters are also liable for common law fraud, the suit states.

"Each and every one of the representations, as described above, concerned material facts for the reason Plaintiff would not have acted Empire, ZC Sterling, Claim Adjustment, Kohlenberg and Rutledge knew were false or made recklessly without any knowledge of their truth as a positive assertion," the suit states.

Boxie is seeking actual, treble, punitive and exemplary damages, plus attorney's fees, costs, prejudgment and post-judgment interest and other relief to which she may be entitled.

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

The case has been assigned to Judge Gary Sanderson of the 60th District Court.

Case No. B182-818

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