Woodward Tornado Victims Receive $15 Million Verdict
Posted on behalf of Edwards Law Firm on Mar 13, 2014 in General News
Two years after a powerful tornado ripped through Woodward, Oklahoma, three families are finally receiving the insurance money they deserved.
On April 14, 2012, an EF-3 tornado hit the town of Woodward and damaged the houses of Sterling Parks, Kim and Linda Louthan, and Jeff and Mary Sharpe. All three plaintiffs had home insurance through Farmers Insurance and its subsidiary, Foremost Insurance Group.
After the tornado, the plaintiffs filed claims with their insurance companies. Rather than provide the benefits their insurance policies promised, Farmers Insurance and Foremost Insurance Groups undervalued the plaintiffs claims and hired insurance adjusters who they knew would offer low estimates for repairs.
Mr. Parks home was so damaged that an independent engineer recommended that it be torn down. Farmers Insurances adjuster ignored the independent assessment and claimed the home was not structurally damaged. After Farmers adjuster undervalued his claim, Mr. Parks was forced to take out a second mortgage to repair the house and make it habitable.
The Lothans had to move out of their damaged home and rent a new place to live. The Sharpes were in the same situation, but could not afford to rent a second property. As a result, they continued living in their house despite the dangerous cracks and damaged electrical wiring.
After months of fighting for the benefits their insurance policies promised, all three families filed lawsuits against Farmers Insurance and Foremost Insurance Group. They alleged that the insurance companies acted in bad faith by unreasonably denying or delaying their claims, and by failing to honor their insurance policy contracts.
District Judge Ray Dean Linder agreed with the plaintiffs, and found that Farmers Insurance and Foremost Insurance Group acted maliciously, committed fraud, breached their contracts with the plaintiffs, and viewed their duty to treat the plaintiffs fairly with complete indifference.
After a six day trial, Judge Linder awarded each family over $2 million dollars in damages for the companies breach of contract and bad faith, and another $3 million dollars in punitive damages, for a total of over $15 million dollars.
Judgments which include large punitive damages are meant to punish a defendant for wrongdoing. In this case, the plaintiffs hope that the judgment will make Farmers Insurance Foremost Insurance Group think twice before attempting to defraud their customers again.