West Virginia Record

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Companies sue insurance providers for denying alleged covered claim

Federal Court

By Kyla Asbury | Feb 17, 2020

Contract 06

WHEELING — Par Enterprises is suing Harco National Insurance Company for denying a claim from a covered incident.

Par Enterprises, Straub Hyundai Inc and Highlands Automotive Holdings Inc. filed the lawsuit against HARCO National Insurance company and IAT Insurance Group in Ohio Circuit Court in January. It was then removed to U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia.

The property at issue in the case is owned by Highland, where it operates Straub Collision Center in Wheeling. The plaintiffs discovered damage to the property on Dec. 27, 2018, including damage to the foundation of the main structure, parking area and associated concrete decking, according to the suit. Highland reported the damage to HARCO and IAT.

The plaintiffs claim their coverage was denied in reliance on a report from Vertex, an engineering firm retained by the defendants, which determined the damage was due to a long-term localized settlement exacerbated by recent erosion/settlement at the elevated concrete decking.

Subsequent to the initial denial, Highland hired an expert in the applicable field and that expert was of the opinion that the sudden and/or abrupt collapse of a longitudinal beam to the reinforced concrete deck structure located beneath soil fill resulted in the collapse of the northern portion of the parking lot and damage to the northeastern portion of the building, according to the suit.

The plaintiffs claim the expert disputed Vertex's report and found no evidence of erosion beneath the foundation supporting the decking columns or evidence of damage due to recent flooding.

"Highland was no aware of any conditions associated with the subject structures that may lead to or cause a sudden collapse of either and/or otherwise to cause either to be damaged," the complaint states. 

Highland provided the expert's report to the defendants on May 30 and, again, requested coverage under the policy, which the defendants also denied, according to the suit.

The final denial, like the initial denial, was wrongfully made and not supported by the policy language and/or provisions, according to the suit.

The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages. They are represented by Jeffrey A. Grove and Jeffrey A. Holmstrand of Grove, Holmstrand & Delk in Wheeling.

The defendants removed the case to federal court, citing the alleged damages exceeds the state court limit of $75,000.

The defendants are represented by Jeffrey M. Wakefield and Jason A. Proctor of Flaherty Sensabaugh Bonasso PLLC.

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia Case number: 5:20-cv-00028

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U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia Wheeling Division