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Saturday, January 18, 2020

TWIA victorious following trial of hail suit, testimony given that roof shingles were ‘hand manipulated’

Attorneys & Judges

By David Yates | Sep 18, 2019

Insurance 11

ANGLETON – A unanimous jury recently found in favor of the Texas Windstorm Association in a hailstorm lawsuit brought by a Brazoria County resident.

Through the Daly & Black law firm, Ronnie Hatfield filed suit against TWIA on Nov. 23, 2015, alleging the association improperly denied and/or underpaid his claim.

Nearly four years later, the case was called up in September and ended with jurors declining to award Hatfield with the money he sought for a new roof (around $23,000) or the $200,000 in fees his lawyers wanted.

In his suit, Hatfield claims on April 17, 2015 a storm hit the Lake Jackson area, damaging the shingle and metal roofs at his property – prompting him to file a claim on his insurance policy.  

During the investigation, which Hatfield claimed was “substandard,” TWIA’s independent adjuster found hail damage to the soft metal components of the roof, but did not find any hail or wind damage to the shingles.  

Court records show TWIA accepted the claim in full but the estimated cost of repair fell below the deductible of Hatfield’s policy. Hatfield then hired a roofer who sent a supplemental claim to TWIA with photos suggesting he believed there was hail damage to the roof. 

In turn, TWIA sent out an engineer who confirmed the hail damage to the soft metals on the roof, but also indicated he could not find wind or hail damage to the shingles. 

Shortly thereafter, Hatfield sued TWIA for breach of the policy and for unpaid policy benefits.

Records show TWIA retained Brett Hall, a roofing expert who inspected the roof in 2018. Hall found no hail damage to the shingles, but confirmed the soft metal damage due to hail that TWIA’s adjuster had found. 

Hatfield’s expert, Shannon Kimmel of K2 Construction, inspected the roof in January 2019. He produced photographs of torn shingles and claimed that wind from the 2015 storm, as well as hail, had damaged the shingles and the roof could not be repaired.

During the trial, Kimmel testified that he could not identify the wind speeds, the type of shingle, the applicable building code or the wind resistance rating of the shingles on Hatfield’s roof, but did show the jury photos he took in 2019 that he said depicted torn shingles due to wind from the 2015 storm. 

The only weather data he had was a report that said there were 35 mph winds at the residence on the storm date.

Hall (TWIA’s roofing expert) testified at trial that the torn shingles were not depicted in any of the prior sets of photos of the roof, including his own, and that he combed the roof in 2018 and there were no ripped or torn shingles. 

He also testified to two of the photos shown to the jury by Kimmel, opining that the shingles were “hand manipulated” by someone after his 2018 inspection and that they cold not be attributed to wind from a storm that struck more than three years ago. 

Hall confirmed that the shingles on the roof were rated to 110 mph wind and that there was no way a 35 mph wind could have torn the shingles and that the tears were not consistent with the type of tears associated with high winds.

Jurors were specifically asked if TWIA’s denial of Hatfield’s claim was improper if it failed to pay for damages to his roof that were caused by wind or hail on April 17, 2015 – to which they answered “NO,” according to the charge of the court, filed on Sept. 12.   

Hatfield is represented by Richard Daly.

TWIA is represented by Beaumont attorney James Old, Jr. of Hicks Thomas.

Filed in Brazoria County, case No. 84167-CV

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