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ARTICLE ID 167664

$________ - INSURANCE OBLIGATION - FAILURE TO PAY CLAIM FOR HURRICANE WILMA DAMAGE TO CONDOMINIUM COMPLEX - DAMAGE TO ROOF, WINDOWS AND SLIDING GLASS DOORS, EXTERIOR DECK, BUILDING EXTERIORS AND INTERIORS.

Florida County, FL

This action was brought against QBE Insurance Company by Buckley Towers Condominiums, Inc., a North Miami condominium complex comprised of two 17-story buildings housing ________ units. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant breached its insurance contract by failing to pay a claim for some $18 million in property damage caused by Hurricane Wilma in ________. The defendant insurance company argued that the plaintiff committed material misrepresentation by inflating its claim, failed to meet the conditions precedent required under the policy and that the property damage at issue resulted from negligent maintenance of the buildings, not hurricane damage.

Evidence showed that the defendant issued a hurricane insurance policy to the plaintiff in May, ________ for an annual premium of $________. The plaintiff contended that Hurricane Wilma hit the two high-rise lakefront towers on October 24, ________, causing substantial damage. The 40-year-old condominium complex houses mostly elderly residents.

The plaintiff’s experts testified that ________ mph hurricane gusts caused the "Y" shaped buildings to actually twist, resulting in significant structural damage and loosened joints throughout the buildings. The plaintiff condominium association claimed that it immediately notified the defendant of extensive damage, including damage to the roofs, windows, sliding glass doors, structural damage and interior damage. However, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant failed to pay anything on the claims, preventing repairs from being initiated.

The plaintiff asserted that an estimator retained by the defendant to assess damages at the complex had his Florida’s insurance adjustor’s license revoked for failing to disclose felonies, including a no lo contendre plea to insurance fraud. The plaintiff also claimed that the engineers and inspectors, hired by the defendant to evaluate the claim, attempted to minimize the damages actually sustained by the buildings.

The defendant argued that the plaintiff failed to adequately maintain the buildings. Defense experts testified that much of the plaintiff’s claimed damages stemmed from normal wear and tear, decay, deterioration and rust which were not covered under the insurance policy issued. The defendant alleged that concrete spalling, a process in which concrete falls off the metal structure, was a known problem at the complex prior to the date of Hurricane Wilma.

Defense experts testified that the winds in the area of the units did not reach sufficient strength to cause the damage alleged by the plaintiff. The defense argued that photographs taken at the plaintiff’s condominium complex, just after Hurricane Wilma, depicted undisturbed palm trees and undamaged screens remaining in the windows of some units. The defendant argued that the photographs indicated that the buildings were not severely hit by the hurricane, as alleged by the plaintiff. The defense maintained that the plaintiff committed fraud by inflating its claim which was initially submitted at $5 million and then increased to more than $17 million in April of ________.

The case was tried over a two-week period in federal court. The jury found for the plaintiff in the amount of $________. An 3 3 additional $________ million in attorney fees was added to the award plus approximately $5.7 million in prejudgment interest, increasing the total judgments to more than $26 million. The defendant’s post-trial motions were all denied. QBE has appealed to the 11th Circuit and the appeal is pending.

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