Recent Cases & Insights
Injuries from Trucking Accidents Can be Catastrophic
Automobile collisions can cause serious personal injuries. Adding weight to the striking vehicle by a factor of four or five can be catastrophic. Recently Greg Cook Law Offices served as trial counsel on a trucking accident caused by lack of judgment in bad weather conditions. Federal and State rules require trucking companies who employ commercial drivers to instruct their operators to pull off the road when the weather is treacherous. Icy road conditions are an example. In the case, the driver failed to pull off the road even though he slowed down. The law and facts of the case forced the defendants to admit liability and also provide an allocution to the jury explaining their negligent conduct under the United States Supreme Court Old Chief case. Be sure to retain a knowledgeable attorney who knows federal and state trucking regulations in order to apply them properly; this will guarantee a fair and equitable settlement for the injured party.
Name of case kept confidential at the request of the defendants
American Family Tries a New Tactic in Total Fire Loss
Tom Schwarzenberger lost his home to furnace fire. It was clear to the American Family adjuster that it was a total loss. All that was needed, he said, was an order from the town that it be razed. But some official with the town objected; it was rumored that he directed the building inspector not to issue a Raze Order, claiming it was a matter between the insurance company and its adjuster, and not to get the town involved. The home sat in a its fire damaged condition for several months. Schwarzenberger eventually received notice from the county health department ruling the property unfit for habitation. American Family was repeatedly asked to pay the policy limits, but refused, only agreeing to pay what it calculated to be the cost of repairs. Schwarzenberger cleaned up the site, demolished the house, and sold the land. He sued American Family. Even after the house was razed, the insurer resisted paying the policy limits, claiming there was no official Raze Order. It moved the court for a summary judgment asking the court to rule as a matter of law that the insured was not entitled to the policy limits. The court denied the motion. As the matter then moved to trial, American Family finally agreed to pay the full limits.
Schwarzenberger v. American Family Insurance Chippewa County
Insured Forced to Sue Own Insurance Company for Uninsured Motorist Benefits
David Gandee, a construction worker, was an insured by Progressive for his automobile coverage. He was struck from behind by an uninsured motorist. Progressive had coverage limits for uninsured motorist of $50,000. Gandee went to the emergency room for care, was released, but he returned in a few days. His doctor referred him to an orthopedic surgeon who found a congenital problem in his back which was aggravated by the accident. Gandee could no longer work. He was declared disabled by Social Security. His attorney presented Progressive with medical bills exceeding $15,000 and a calculated future loss of wages for $116,000. Progressive offered him $500. Gandee hired Greg Cook Law Offices as trial attorney to handle the case. Before trial Progressive increased the offer to $1,000. Gandee received a verdict of $279,000. Progressive was forced to pay its policy limits, taxable costs, and interest under Wis. Stats. 628.46.
Gandee v. Progressive Insurance Company Racine County
City of Milwaukee Forces Sandy Sewage in Basement While Clearing Main Line
The Jacksons have a nice home in Milwaukee. They have a family of seven children and growing. On a September day, Mrs. Jackson, who was pregnant, called the City of Milwaukee to advise that the sewer had backed up in her basement. The City dispatched workers to the site. Within several hours, she went to check the basement, now finding a mixture of sewage and sand covering the basement floor. The City workers looked, took pictures, and then immediately left. The Jackson’s filed a claim which was denied. Jackson was advised that the City was not responsible for the mess. They hired Greg Cook Law Offices. After City supervisors testified they could not explain what had happened to cause the mess, the court ordered the city to turn over internal documents which the City previously refused to turn over to the plaintiffs. The records revealed that the City knew from the beginning that its own equipment operators had used high pressure hoses to try and break up the blocked sewer [full of sand] and forced sandy sewage into the Jackson’s basement. This violated the City’s own rule never to use high pressure water hoses when sewer laterals are present because sewer waste can enter a homeowner’s property as it did here. Despite claims that it was immune from suit, the city settled a week before trial. It agreed to replace the entire sewer lateral that had been partially plugged with sand and in addition paid the Jackson’s for their personal property lost.
Jackson v. City of Milwaukee Milwaukee County
Lenders Required to Pay Escrowed Insurance Premiums Timely Under RESPA
Many homeowners pay their taxes and insurance along with their monthly mortgage directly to the bank. Some banks require that the homeowner escrow those payments so that they are made annually. In some cases, lenders fail to pay the insurance premium timely and the policy cancels. Most of the time it can be corrected by making the payment. However, if a loss occurs during the time the policy is no longer in force, the homeowner is left without coverage. In those cases, the lending institution is liable for all compensatory damages, including attorney fees, under the Real Estate Settlement Practices Act. Many people do not know this law and some lenders don’t want to admit they owe damages when this occurs. Be sure to consult with competent counsel if you find yourselves in this unfortunate situation. If the bank should have paid your premium, and you suffered a loss to your property while the coverage lapsed, you have a right to recover from the lender under RESPA.
Name of case kept confidential at the request of the defendants
Insurer Denies Claim for Tornado Damage to Hotel Roof
Windstorms in Wisconsin can be accompanied by tornados. A severe storm crossed over parts of Appleton, Wisconsin recently and caused damage. The plaintiff’s hotel appeared to have avoided the brunt of the storm, with only some damaged roof vents that were repaired. However, several weeks later, damage was noticed to the gable ends of the roof over the swimming pool. On closer inspection of the attic area, it was clear the trusses had been displaced and were tipped. The roof was in danger of collapse and the plaintiff was forced to close the pool until repairs could be done. When the claim was presented to the insurance carrier, it investigated the matter by hiring its own expert to investigate. The expert’s report concluded that the trusses had been slowly tipping for years because the roof had been improperly constructed more than ten years ago. Therefore, the storm had nothing to do with the problem. However, plaintiff’s public adjuster discovered photographs of the attic area had been taken about two years before the storm. This was the same insurer. It paid the plaintiff for a minor loss relating to the water-sprinkler fire suppression system. When comparing the photos to those taken after the storm, the evidence demonstrated that the trusses had not been slowly tipping as the expert had asserted. The loss must have been sudden, therefore caused by the storm. The carrier still refused to pay the claim in the face of its own photographic evidence. The plaintiff retained Greg Cook Law Offices. After suit was filed, numerous depositions were conducted; the case was eventually settled for $225,000.
Appleton Hospitality v. Liberty Surplus Insurance Outagamie County
Covid-19 Business Interruption Claim
As a result of the pandemic in 2020, many state governments ordered businesses to shut down. Some insurance policies contain benefits for lost income. Whether this is a covered loss depends largely on the language used in the insurance policy. National reports from insurance industry experts are predicting that these losses may be covered events under certain insurance contracts. If you own a business and need more information on your policy, Greg Cook Law Offices has already joined with several firms around the state in order to form a practice group to advise potential clients of their rights.