Case Studies

Owner Contractor Dispute

John worked with the defense on a matter involving a construction dispute between a homeowner and her contractor. The homeowner (plaintiff) had received an insurance settlement for flood damage to her home and hired a contractor (the defendant) to perform the restoration and well as some improvements. Near the end of the job, the homeowner and contractor had reached a point where they could no longer work together. The two parted ways with unresolved financial and work-in-place issues which resulted in a lawsuit. The plaintiff claimed deficiencies and defects totaling over $100,000.00. The contract documents and specifications were sparse and the initial contract had been supplemented with numerous verbal and emailed change orders. John determined that the homeowner had received approximately $85,000.00 from the insurance company for flood damage and that all of that work, less some opt-outs, and plus some improvements, had been completed by the contractor for a contracted amount of approximately $76,000.00. To date, the contractor had been paid $70,000.00. John laid out the multiple contract agreements sequentially to determine what the actual agreement was and how much of it was allocated to the insurance repair and how much was upgrades and improvements. The result clearly showed that the contractor had performed within budget for the insured work. A site visit and analysis of the work in place showed it to be consistent with the specifications where they applied and consistent with typical workmanship standards in the balance of the areas. The exceptions were a handful of punch list type deficiencies, incomplete items, and cosmetic errors that would cost less than $2,400.00 to complete. This amount was well less than the $6,000.00 still owed to the contractor and allowed the defendant to enter mediation in a strong position to successfully and favorably settle the claim.

Insurance Claim Dispute

John worked with the plaintiff in a matter involving severe damage to a home due to water entering a fourth floor door during Hurricane Ike. Hundreds of gallons of water entered and flooded the home all the way through to the first floor. The insurance company issued a denial based upon the assertion that the door was not broken and suffered no visible permanent physical damage. John noted that there was physical evidence along with witness testimony that the force of the wind had bowed the door back until it had lost contact with the gaskets and this had allowed water sheeting down the exterior wall to enter the home in large quantities. The opposing expert agreed with the insurance company that the seepage exclusion applied, however when confronted with the evidence John presented, also agreed with John and stipulated that during the storm, the door had lost contact with the gaskets which created a temporary opening, and that the water entered through that opening, and that the direct force of the wind caused that to happen. The opposing expert, however, still stood firm that the denial was appropriate. The policy language stated that coverage was excluded unless the direct force of the wind caused an opening and the rain entered through that opening. John advised the attorney that the opposing expert had stipulated the specific factors that would support the Plaintiff’s coverage. A partial summary judgment was requested and received supporting this opinion and the plaintiff received a very favorable settlement shortly thereafter.

Cause of Loss Investigation for Apartment Complex Related to Storm Damage

An Accumyn expert provided in-depth analysis and critique of an apartment owner’s claim that a hail storm which purportedly had caused more than one million dollars damage to the property. The property owner claimed a total loss of all of the roofs, awnings and HVAC units. The plaintiff’s experts calculated the roofing values with very little depreciation and no allowance for any preexisting issues. John used historical aerial photography as well as historical weather data and other documents in the file to establish a proper valuation for the damage. Historical photography showed that the roofs had been in place for far longer than their useful lives and that even the poorly applied patches were more than ten years old. Physical damage to the rooftop HVAC units was not consistent and based upon the ages of the units, a window of time in which the damage must have occurred was established. Historical weather data showed that not only had the current storm only skirted the property, several previous storms had directly impacted the property and the dates of these storms correlated with the physical damage observed. The opposing expert provided a timeline that included the touchdown of a tornado several miles away as well as a 71mph gust of wind recorded at a nearby airport at around the same time the damage was reported to have occurred. Although the opposing expert’s sequence of events seemed to support the damage, it had not been looked at in detail. John reviewed the data and discovered that the opposing expert was using the time of loss provided by the owner, which was in Central Daylight Time, the weather observations from the local airport which were on Central Standard Time, and National Weather Service Data which was on Greenwich Mean Time. When John adjusted the times to one standard, it became apparent that the opposing expert had mistakenly sampled data from two different and unrelated storms and tried to interpolate the weather conditions at the subject property based on this flawed methodology. When confronted with John’s findings, he agreed the basis for his opinion was flawed. A favorable settlement was reached for the defendant.