Brent Adams & Associates, a personal injury law firm based out Raleigh, Fayetteville and Dunn, announces a jury ruled that their client's award was trebled by the court as compensation for the property damage she suffered. Dunn lawyer Brent Adams represented the client.
The verdict was against an insurance company represented by the Charlotte law firm of Golding, Holden & Pope, LLP.
Superior Court Judge Lucy Inman of Raleigh stated from the bench that because of the jury's finding that the insurance company committed acts that constitute unfair and deceptive trade practices, that she was going to treble the jury's verdict and enter a judgment in favor of the client for three times the damages, which the jury found was the amount necessary to pay for the damages to the client's home.
Adams commented that this case shows that people do not have to allow insurance companies to push them around when they have a loss covered by insurance. Adams said, "While it is true the insurance company makes the initial determination as to whether it will pay the loss, the insurance company decision is not the final word." All consumers have available to them the protection of the law which they can enforce by going to court and asking a jury to make the final decision. Adams said, "Many people in my client's position would have accepted the engineer's report as true. They would have decided they were outgunned by the insurance company and that it would be no use to pursue their claim. However, my client, a retired school teacher, had the courage to fight the insurance company and prevail."
The client's home was heavily damaged on May 9, 2008 after a water pipe broke loose and spewed water throughout her home for almost an hour. The insurance company covering the client's home initially paid almost $4,000 to replace and install the damaged floor. The client noticed the floor buckling less than a year after the repairs. When the conditions got worse, she contacted her insurance company to place another claim for repairs.
The client contended her home was never sufficiently dried out and the insurance company did not do an adequate investigation to determine that the wet insulation under her home was not completely removed. Because of the negligent repair procedure, the moisture in the insulation continued to damage her home.
The insurance company refused to pay the cost for further repairs and contended the damaged was not caused by the water leakage, but was instead from condensation that occurred because the client kept her home at a temperature of 70 degrees throughout the summer. The insurance company expert testified that because the client kept her home at this temperature, the warm summer air caused condensation to form under her particleboard, which caused the buckling floor damage.
The jury rejected this argument and found that all of the damage was caused by the initial water leakage into her home caused by the faulty plumbing. The jury also found that the insurance company committed certain wrongful acts, which constitutes unfair and deceptive trade practices under North Carolina law.
North Carolina law provides that if an insurance company is guilty of unfair claims settlement practices, the insurance company is also guilty of an unfair and deceptive trade practice. Under the law, a company which is guilty of unfair and deceptive trade practices must pay the victim three times the amount of their loss.
"This law is one of the most significant protections that consumers have against any business which treats consumers unfairly," Adams said.