We discussed an upcoming trial last month against State Farm. The trial concluded on Wednesday with a victory for the homeowner, albeit not everything he asked for. This was a different case. The homeowner suffered a confirmed sinkhole and, as State Farm demanded, repaired his home to State Farm’s engineer’s specifications. Post-grout, he continued to experience issues and reported such to State Farm. From that point several engineers came back out to investigate and all confirmed that sinkhole activity was still present. State Farm’s defense was that the homeowner hired the contractor and monitoring engineer himself and were not on State Farm’s approved list. State Farm also presented to the jury through its own experts and the neutral evaluator that the reason sinkhole activity was still present was because it was not properly remediated due to contractor error. Essentially, the experts felt that the contractor and engineer the homeowner hired had botched the job. State Farm’s argument was that they complied with their obligations and paid for the repairs. Also, State Farm argued that it was not responsible for warrantying or guarantying the work of a contractor the homeowner hired. State Farm conceded that additional repairs were necessary but denied coverage for them.

After three days of trial, the jury found that State Farm did breach the contract by failing to pay for some repairs, however, did not award the homeowner all the repairs he felt were necessary. Several things were learned. First, Hernando County is conservative when it comes to handing out monetary damages. Second, State Farm is taking a strong stance against “repeat claims” or “failed repair” cases as these are becoming more prominent. Finally, as an interesting side note, my partner, Ted Corless, could not participate in the trial due to a conflict with this particular case. It is always helpful to have multiple lawyers at trial but we got through it.

All in all, this firm is proud of the win and hopes this can help some sort of precedent in these types of cases. If you are an insurance company you have a duty to your customer first and any vendetta against contractors should come second. Also for homeowners, be careful to document the entire claims process. Who said what and when. Keep all contracts and notes throughout the claim. This was a 2009 claim and if we did not have such detailed notes, it would have made for a more difficult case. On to the next ones…..Tower Hill and Citizens.

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