All posts by Ted Corless

Corless Barfield Trial Group Wins $12.7 Million Verdict Against Citizens Property Insurance

Built in the 1980s, Cloverplace is a duplex community just off U.S. 19 in Pinellas County. The 120 buildings (240 units) are home to about 500 people, many of them retirees and young families.

In 2007, residents of the Cloverplace Condos began to notice unmistakable signs of sinkhole activity. Walls were cracking, stucco was peeling off, doors no longer closed as they should. Depressions formed alongside units. Last week, a Pinellas County jury announced one of the largest verdicts ever against state-run Citizens — $12.7 million.

It is often the case that property owners will have to fight their insurance companies to cover a loss. CBTG utilizes an aggressive, tenacious approach to help clients receive the compensation they deserve for various types of real estate damage and property loss.

Contact us or call 877-517-5595 or 813-258-4998 for questions about sinkhole and property damage disputes.

San Francisco Sinking?

No San Francisco treat here. A sinkhole may be lurking at the Millennium Tower, an expensive, posh fifty-eight-story apartment building in San Francisco, California. The excitement, buzz, and property values since it’s opening in 2009 are sinking along with the building’s foundation. Engineers have estimated the building will continue to sink at a rate of about one-inch per year. It’s an extreme case of land disappearing that could be caused by a sinkhole.

Sinkholes usually form gradually, although there are indeed cases of sudden, gaping craters. If you live in Florida, where most of the peninsula is perched over porous, carbonate rock, the foundation can fall out from under you. Sometimes in these sinkhole-prone areas, you can monitor the chemical compounds of the land below and use satellites to scope out at-risk zones that can help predict future sinkage.

For sinkholes to form, the soil must be enriched with carbonate minerals like limestone or sandstone. Then, add in enough flowing groundwater to the mix, and those minerals start to dissolve. Soften enough and they collapse, swallowing whatever was above them into the earth.  Sinkholes and subsidence caused by liquefaction may cause widespread damage. Areas that subside in earthquake-prone regions experience more seasonal flooding.

The leaning tower of San Francisco: the Millennium Tower at 301 Mission Street was the tallest residential building west of the Mississippi when it opened nearly a decade ago. Though priced in the millions, the inventory of luxurious apartments moved quickly. Yet for all its grandeur and curb appeal, the building has a fundamental problem: it’s sinking into mud and tilting toward its neighbors.

Millennium Tower has 645 feet of reinforced concrete wrapped in glass. Inside the $550 million construction, as advertised, lavish condominiums flush with amenities, attract professional athletes, tech billionaires, and venture capitalists.

The problems persist, though, and its not just about having that sinking feeling: the outer facade of the building is separating from the structure, creating gaps through which a small fire in one unit could quickly spread to other units. Though the building is safe to occupy, an investigation found that gaps in the walls might present risks in the event of a fire. Moreover, while the inspection by the city found its safe to occupy, the situation caused several lawsuits to be filed and has resulted in a departure from the building by several residents.

San Francisco city building inspectors have issued a violation notice against Millennium Tower. The December 2017 notice cites “a breach in the fire and smoke barrier” and other evidence that suggests, “the issue may be more widespread.” This fire hazard was only issued upon inspection of one unit in the building, but the issue clearly affects other units — and could even affect the entire building.

Save Me, San Francisco.  If you have questions about property management, property damage caused by fire and sinkhole activity, or general insurance matters, call Corless Barfield Trial Group today at 877-517-5595.

What Does the Average Sinkhole Repair Cost?

Sinkhole repair cost case – Fraser, Michigan

The sinkhole lawyers at Corless Barfield Trial Group work diligently to help their clients navigate the often complex and overwhelming information they receive during the sinkhole claim process, which includes costly and intricate repair work. The sinkhole repair cost can be a complicated issue.

Take, for example, a giant sinkhole in Fraser, Michigan that has caused a plethora of legal and insurance headaches for the town. The massive sinkhole that opened up nine months ago is in the last phase of repairs but lingering questions remain about a lawsuit filed by the city of Sterling Heights. The sinkhole was discovered Christmas Eve, displacing dozens of residents for weeks and causing three homes to be condemned. The collapse also forced more than 500,000 residents and businesses in the county to conserve water for weeks. Neighbors of the sinkhole had to tolerate noise, smell, and dirt for months. Work on the sewer collapse has been ongoing since late 2016, which is when the collapse created a sinkhole beneath the neighborhood.

In May 2017, the city of Sterling Heights filed a lawsuit claiming its residents should not have to chip in for the repairs. The interceptor, which collapsed on Dec. 24, 2016, is owned and maintained by the Macomb Interceptor Draining District. A Macomb County judge recently held that the city cannot sue the county, and now Sterling Heights is looking into suits against the district or the insurance companies.

How much does sinkhole repair cost?

Insurance companies throughout the United States seek to limit their exposure and therefore recommend the least costly sinkhole repairs in an effort to save money – which frequently proves to be insufficient to remedy the situation. While there are void filling techniques that can be used, one size does not fit all: The method that would be used to repair a sinkhole will be based on where you live and the size of the sinkhole. Moreover, not all foundation repair companies are created equal.

For example, a small sinkhole which minimal damage to any surrounding structure can come to a sinkhole repair cost of $10,000 to $15,000; a larger sinkhole can reach the $100,000 mark or more, depending on the sinkhole and the damage it causes. In Michigan, where the sinkhole has condemned multiple homes and displaced residents for weeks, the sinkhole repair cost and reach catastrophic numbers.

Realistically, you’ll need a professional to observe your sinkhole in order to get an estimate – your insurance company should send one out to you so they can prepare an estimate of how much of the sinkhole repair cost your policy will cover for you.

Corless Barfield Trial Group attorneys understand how to protect our clients’ rights and repair sinkholes. We have dealt with insurance companies that failed to provide an adequate and appropriate amount of money for these claims and repairs. If you’ve lost property or experienced inconveniences due to a sinkhole, call 877-517-5595 today for a free consultation.

The Strong Connection Between Sinkholes and Hurricanes

The effects of Hurricane Irma

All across Florida, the ground is giving way as gaping holes are opening in backyards, homes and apartments, schoolyards, and roadways. The reason? Sinkholes are opening under these buildings caused in part by the extra water from Hurricane Irma.

Like hurricanes, sinkholes evolve when rock is faced with water; water dissolves rock, so when hurricanes bring more water, more sinkholes present themselves. Then, when you introduce the stress on the earth associated with hurricanes, sinkholes are not far behind.

How Irma is causing sinkholes

Irma’s soaking, torrential rains have made the ground so heavy that in some places it’s collapsing into underground voids causing sinkholes. Heavy rains and flooding can often accelerate the phenomenon that is sinkhole activity, as it increases how much water is being introduced to the earth’s rock.

Sinkholes are natural occurrences caused by the erosion of bedrock over time, however the chances of a sinkhole occurring are greatly increased by the presence of a hurricane. Significant rainfall is a key ingredient to causing a sinkhole to open because the water becomes acidic once it is underground and, without proper drainage, can pool in sinkholes.

This is oftentimes the result of changes in the hydro-static pressure caused by rising water and tides.

Florida residents see an increase in sinkholes

We have already received multiple inquiries from property owners and managers who located stress to retaining walls and foundations, especially where the water withdrew before the storm surged back.

In less than two weeks, there have been at least eight Florida communities affected by sinkholes likely due to Hurricane Irma, usually involving cracking in walls, sidewalks, and ceilings.

Insurers in the Sunshine State processed close to 25,000 claims for sinkhole damage over the course of four years, according to CNN.

Do you have a sinkhole on your property?

Florida has more sinkholes than any other state in the country. However, in excess of 20 percent of the country is above karst terrain (a combination of caves, underground channels, and a rough and bumpy ground surface), according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Other states where sinkholes are common include Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania.

If you are dealing with an insurance claim, the deductible for a sinkhole loss is almost always less than that of a hurricane. As such, if the cause is sinkhole loss and not hurricane, all of your benefits change. Consequently, knowing to look for both storm and sinkhole damage can save you tens of thousands of dollars in repairs.

Property owners and property management companies can find themselves at a significant disadvantage when it comes to dealing with their insurance company over the damage caused by sinkhole activity. Insurance companies frequently deny coverage, delay claims, or pay a fraction of the cost of damage to their policyholders when faced with a sinkhole event.

A knowledgeable and experienced sinkhole attorney can help assist you with all stages of sinkhole claims. To learn more about how we can help you, contact us today for a free consultation.

Sinkhole Swallows Homes, Boat in Land O’ Lakes, Florida Forcing Evacuation

Attorney Ted Corless is on the scene investigating the latest large sinkhole incident in the State of Florida. A large sinkhole opened on the morning of July 14 and it has already swallowed two homes. Authorities are scrambling to keep people safe from the massive, fast-growing sinkhole. Corless learned repairs were done on the sinkhole before this incident with grout, which is a less effective way to treat sinkhole activity in an effort to save money. The sinkhole was estimated to be 200 to 250 feet wide and 50 feet deep and appeared to be moving toward a nearby lake. For a free consultation regarding your sinkhole claim, call 813-258-4998 or 877-517-5595.