Verdicts & Settlements: Jury Awards Homeowner Nearly Four Times Amount Paid By Carrier For Burst Pipe Damages

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Verdicts & Settlements: Jury Awards Homeowner Nearly Four Times Amount Paid By Carrier For Burst Pipe Damages

Fort Lauderdale, FL – The Firm’s First Party Property Practice scored its first trial victory of 2023 when a Broward County Jury unanimously agreed with our client’s property damage claim and awarded from their insurance company, Universal Property & Casualty Insurance Company (“Universal”), nearly four times the amount initially paid by Universal for the damages.

In early July 2020, our client’s home suffered a pipe burst resulting in significant damage to their property. After water remediation efforts were taken, Universal sent their field adjuster, whom was employee by a subsidiary company of Universal, to the property. The adjuster created two estimates, only one of which was seen by our client. The estimate presented to our client using a proprietary estimating software resulted in a payment, after deductible and depreciation, of just $20,777.35 to cover all of the first floor tile replacement, drywall replacement, and painting along with other necessary repairs in the kitchen, the powder room, the living room, the master bedroom, the master bath, the toilet room, the master closet, the loft, the landing, and the exterior wall which the pipe burst through.

During the claim process, Universal received numerous documents from the client’s public adjuster including an estimate in the amount of $81,226.05 which after $2,500 deductible was for $78,726.05. Universal never responded to this estimate in its coverage letter allocating only the initial $20,777.35 for the damages incurred. A lawsuit was thereafter filed regarding the underpayment.

Universal’s stubbornness persisted during litigation. Even after they learned that their own expert estimated damages to be in excess of what they originally paid, Universal attempted to make disingenuous arguments which were never made in their coverage letter. Moreover, our client was presented with several lowball settlement offers. Two offers were “Danis Offers” designed to limit our client’s recovery of statutory attorney’s fees and at least one was by way of a formal Proposal for Settlement which is designed to shift legal fees and present a risk to the homeowner of paying the defendant’s legal fees and costs if they do not prevail at trial by a certain margin.

After more than two years of litigation, Kanner & Pintaluga Partners Levi Wilkes and Shawn Gibbons, tried the case before a six-member jury. The plaintiff’s expert and defense experts both presented testimony that Universal’s coverage determination and estimate was incorrect even with the defense expert omitting from his estimate tile flooring removal and replacement and the kitchen repairs necessary. Following the three-day trial, the jury returned a verdict finding that our client was owed more than $76,000 for the damages in order to restore his home to a pre-loss condition.

The case is Gunder M. Kirkberg v. Universal Property & Casualty Insurance Company, Case No.: CACE-20-018767 in the Circuit Court of the 17th Judicial Circuit, Broward County, Florida.

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Kanner & Pintaluga is an aggressive, ethical, and results-driven national plaintiff firm committed to representing accident, serious injury, and property damage victims. With a team of nearly 100 attorneys, we have the experience and expertise to achieve the most favorable outcome for our clients. If we can assist you or if you’d simply like to speak to an attorney about getting the help you need, please do not hesitate to contact us. Our team is always available to discuss your rights and make certain that you and your family are protected.