Some background on the case is important before we discuss the results. My clients purchased a home in Ocala. Unknown to them or Tower Hill, there had been a prior claim made on the house. My clients noticed damage to their home that appeared to be sinkhole related and filed a claim with Tower Hill. Tower Hill investigated and did find sinkhole activity affecting the property but denied the claim because of the prior claim that was unknown to everybody when they bought the house. After many many months of litigation, Tower Hill eventually changed their coverage opinion and agreed to accept coverage for the loss. Of course that doesn’t mean they wanted to pay for it yet.
Stage two: The homeowners were not satisfied with the repair plan that Tower Hill’s experts recommended and wanted to challenge it before beginning repairs. Tower Hill demanded that the parties attend a neutral evaluation which we agreed to. The neutral evaluator recognized the obvious flaws in the original repair plan and even retained the help of an impartial structural engineer to assist with devising a proper plan. When the dust settled, the total repair costs were determined to be nearly $50,000 over what the home was insured for. A total loss as we call it. Tower Hill still did not want to pay.
Stage three: Tower Hill filed a Motion asking the Court to determine that it did not have to write the homeowners a check, even though the admitted they had initially breached the contract and admitted that the house was a total loss, unless they went out and did the repairs. Our firm working with co-counsel and future partner Ted Corless, asked the Court to simply grant us a final judgment. After all, this was a lawsuit and all lawsuits have to come to an end at some point. The judge granted our Motion and denied Tower Hill’s. The core of the ruling was that an insurance company can not wrongfully deny a claim and then come begging to the judges to save them from having to pay. (This is my summary, not necessarily verbatim what the judge said). Secondly, the judge recognized that she has to deal with the lawsuit in front of her, not the insurance claim, and lawsuits have to be finalized. In this case, since the parties agree on the amount of the damages, there was nothing left to fight about. The homeowners won at every stage and deserved some sort of closure. That is done with a judgement against Tower Hill who will now have to pay out, unless they appeal of course. This is a big decision on a hot issue that needed some resolution and clarity.