Lloyd’s of London sued after alleged breach of contract, bad faith claims handling post-Hurricane Isaac

By Chelsea Partington | Sep 23, 2014

NEW ORLEANS – A man is suing his insurance company for allegedly undervaluing damage to several of his properties following Hurricane Isaac.

Wilfred J. Gravois Jr. filed suit against Underwriters at Lloyd's, London in the Orleans Parish Civil District Court on July 15.

Gravois alleges that he holds an insurance policy issued by Lloyd's on Aug. 29, 2012 which insures Gravois' properties at 2809-11 Conti Street, 2815 Conti Street, 2819-2821 Conti Street, 2823 Conti Street and 2816-18 St. Louis Street in New Orleans. The plaintiff asserts that Lloyd's policy provided $130,000 in coverage for damages to the properties.

Gravois claims that for the policy period encompassing the year 2012, he paid an $8,614.20 annual premium. Gravois further reports that the policy required a $2,500.00 deductible for hurricane damage.

On Aug. 29, 2012, Hurricane Isaac made landfall in southeast Louisiana. Gravois alleges that the storm caused severe damage to his property.

The plaintiff claims that after the hurricane had run its course, he submitted a claim to Lloyd's against the policy for roof damage, water damage, damage to the exterior and interior of the property and various other issues resulting from the storm. Gravois asserts that he asked Lloyd's to cover the cost of repairs to the property as outlined by the policy, as well as any other coverage available under the policy.

Lloyd's allegedly hired an adjuster to adjust the claim. Gravois charges that the adjuster did not spend an adequate amount of time at his property and failed to fully and properly evaluate the cause and extent of the damage. The plaintiff further claims that the adjuster took advantage of his lack of knowledge by attempting to convince Gravois that the damage to his property was minimal.

Gravois asserts that Lloyd's and their adjuster willfully ignored the true scale of the damage to his properties by undervaluing the destruction. Lloyd's allegedly stated that the total damages to all properties were approximately $20,000 in their initial estimate reports. Gravois alleges that his damages were actually much greater, as evidenced by an assessment submitted by Gulfcoast Estimating Services. The plaintiff claims that Lloyd's estimates were rampant with undervalued and ignored damage.

Gravois charges that in adjusting the damages for each property, Lloyd's reduced his recovery by applying the deductible to each property. The plaintiff asserts his policy states that "...the Deductible will only be applied once per occurrence." Gravois argues that because his damages all resulted from Hurricane Isaac, this policy provision was violated and represents a breach of contract.

Gravois alleges that he could not properly repair his property based on Lloyd's low adjustment, and therefore could not prevent future damage. The plaintiff claims that his properties have sustained further damages as a result.

Gravois asserts that he submitted "satisfactory proof of loss" as required by his insurance contract.

Lloyd's allegedly owed Gravois' multiple duties as a result of the claim, including the inspection of his property, adjustment of the claim, estimation of the damages and timely pay for all the repairs necessary to repair the property.

The defendant is accused of failure to make proper payment on Gravois' property damage within 30 days of receiving "satisfactory proof of loss," failure to properly investigate and adjust the claim in accordance with law, negligent misrepresentation, knowingly failing to make payment for the amount due under the policy within time delays allowed by the law, failure to establish an exclusion under the terms of the policy, negligence in handling of the claim, bad faith claims handling and breach of contract.

The plaintiff seeks an unknown amount in damages for diminution in value of the property, repair and remediation expenses and increased expenses, the amount due under the policy not previously paid, costs to hire investigative and engineering firms, consequential damages as a natural result of the breach of contract, mental anguish, loss of use, attorney's fees, prejudgment interest and costs of litigation.

The plaintiff is also seeking an unknown amount in statutory penalties, including fifty percent of the difference between the amount paid or tendered and the amount found to be due, and an amount not to exceed two times of the damages sustained or five thousand dollars, whichever is greater.

Wilfred J. Gravois, Jr. is represented by J. Andrew Lewis Jr. of Speights & Worrich.

The case has been assigned to District M Judge Paulette R. Irons.

Case no. 2014-06930.

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