I just love stories like this when the little Davids of the world beat the big greedy Goliaths at their own game.
The facts are that insurance companies can be very difficult to deal with when you have any type of insurance claim and especially when it deals with water and mold damage. As I had recently written in my article, Will your insurance company cover water and mold damage? even if you are adequately covered, you will most likely have to fight with your insurance company to get anything paid for and the damage fixed.
I have seen this happen numerous times as in this new story of a homeowner named Steven Lopez from Torrance, California who was burglarized in September 2013. His home had suffered extensive water and mold damage as a result of the burglars turning on the bathtub water in order to flood the home so they could to cover up the crime.
Lopez did what any homeowner would do when their home is damaged, he called his insurance company and filed a claim. But instead of helping the single father of five kids all under the age of 12, the insurance company did not believe him even though he had a police report so they opened a fraud claim on Mr. Lopez.
For over a year, they played games with Mr. Lopez. It got so bad that his young son who suffers from epilepsy began having breathing problems and had to go to the emergency room on more than one occasion due to the mold growth which the insurance company admitted was the result of the water damage.
That is when he knew that he needed to file a lawsuit against these insurance clowns!
The lawsuit claimed bad faith and their failure to cover the claim was intentional and designed to save money.
“I purchased insurance so that they’d be there for me when I needed them,” said Mr. Lopez. “My family and I suffered through a break in, the theft of so many possessions and complete destruction of my house. Ameriprise only made it worse for us.”
“It’s unbelievable how my client was treated,” Lopez’s trial attorney, Brian Kabateck of Kabateck Brown Kellner LLP, said in a statement. “This is a hardworking man trying to be a good father and Ameriprise was working overtime to deny his claim without any proof or justification. The company ignored police reports, my client’s own statements and the evidence in this case, and it proved a hardship to Mr. Lopez and his entire family.”
The Daily Breeze reported that after seven days of testimony and four days of deliberations in Los Angeles Superior Court, jurors on March 23 awarded Lopez more than $1.3 million for the repairs, damages for breaching the terms of the insurance policy and attorneys’ fees.
Jurors agreed the company acted with malice, and thus included in the verdict $900,000 in punitive damages and $200,000 for emotional suffering. Punitive damages exceed basic compensation and are awarded to punish defendants.
“They did everything possible to low-ball the claim,” said Kabateck, former president of the Consumer Attorneys of California.
“It’s really the kind of thing that aggravates people and that’s why (the jury) gave them almost $1 million in punitive damages,” he added. “They looked at this and said, ‘This could be any of us.’