OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - In a unanimous verdict, the District Court of Douglas County, Nebraska handed a landmark victory to policyholders with home damages and a respected local general contractor over American Family Insurance Company.
In 2014, two Iowa and seven Nebraska homeowners suffered storm damages to their homes. After reporting their claims to American Family Insurance Company, the homeowners executed assignments of claims with a well-known local general contractor, Valley Boys, Inc., to repair their homes, including replacing seven of the nine homes' roofing systems.
American Family failed to fulfill its promise to pay for all damages owed under the insurance contracts. Subsequently, Valley Boys retained the Merlin Law Group (MLG), a national law firm known for representing policyholders' rights across the country.
This is the first case of its kind in Nebraska, in which a contractor has been represented on assignment of claims for multiple homeowners. Jurors agreed in reaching their unanimous verdict with Valley Boys and MLG attorneys Larry Bache and Mike Duffy that American Family breached the insurance policies. The Court awarded Valley Boys more than $61,000 in damages. In addition to the damages awarded, Valley Boys and the homeowners are entitled to attorneys’ fees under Nebraska law.
"The contractor did the work, the assignments were valid, the claims were owed, and the jurors agreed," said MLG attorney Larry Bache. "Insurers think they can get away with this on smaller residential claims, because they believe contractors and homeowners won't fight it. But when policyholders band together, they can hold their insurers accountable for putting profits over people. This is how insurance is supposed to work — you pay your premium, they pay what's owed to rebuild. When insurers try to pit customers against their contractors, and bully their way out of paying small residential insurance claims, it breaks the trust homeowners should be able to have in their insurance companies."
"I promised my customers that I'd handle their claim. I handled it then, and I’m handling it now," said Steve Shannon, Managing Director at Valley Boys. "Our customers expect their homes to be professionally repaired, and contractors expect to be paid for their services — but no one expects insurance companies to back out of their responsibilities. Thankfully, Merlin Law Group helped us hold this insurance company to its word.”
Several other Nebraska cases against insurance carriers are set for jury trials over the next few months, including Farmers Mutual Insurance Company of Nebraska, Farm Bureau Insurance Company, and Auto-Owners Insurance Company.