CHARLESTON - A couple are suing Safeco Insurance Company of America for failing to offer policy limits when their free-standing garage was damaged in a fire.

Gary Kessell and Sandra Kessell had a homeowners insurance policy from Safeco for their residence in Charleston and while the policy was in effect, they incurred the loss of their free-standing garage as a result of a fire that occurred on Nov. 2, according to a complaint filed April 16 in Kanawha Circuit Court.

The Kessells claim they notified Safeco regarding the loss on Nov. 5 to begin the claims process and on Dec. 12, they notified Safeco that the residence was in contract for sale on the condition that the garage was to be rebuilt.

On Dec. 13, Safeco notified the Kessells to submit building estimates for the garage, which they did, but received no response, according to the suit.

The Kessells claim on Jan. 28, they notified Safeco that the sale of the residence was imminent and that closing would take place on March 1.

The garage replacement was a contingency of the appraisal and the lender requirements in order to complete the sale and, having had little response from Safeco, the Kessells retained counsel on Feb. 11 to resolve the claim and put Safeco on notice of representation, according to the suit.

The Kessells claim on Feb. 11, Safeco issued a check in the amount of $14,188.82 to them, which was approximately 50 percent of the estimated value to replace the garage and Safeco failed to include or under-estimated significant line items in the cost to replace the garage.

On Feb. 15, the Kessells notified Safeco they did not agree with the amount of loss it proposed and on Feb. 26, they once again put Safeco on notice that the delay was threatening the sale of the residence, according to the suit.

The Kessells claim by Safeco's failure to resolve their claim, the same of the residence was canceled by the prospective buyer.

Safeco failed to offer the Kessells the policy limits of their coverage and/or an amount necessary to rebuild the garage, according to the suit.

The Kessells claim as a result of the defendant's acts, the prospective buyer withdrew, causing them to lose the sale of their residence.

Safeco's actions were a breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing inherent in the policy of insurance and caused the Kessells to suffer damages, according to the suit.

The Kessells are seeking compensatory and punitive damages. They are being represented by Anthony J. Majestro of Powell & Majestro PLLC.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Charles E. King.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 13-C-738

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