EDINBURG - Jurors last week awarded nearly $2 million to a McAllen man in an insurance fraud case, according to court records.
Jurors, after nearly three hours of deliberation, agreed last Tuesday to award $1.8 million to John R. Griffith after it found his insurance provider engaged in deceptive practices and acts that harmed Griffith, according to a news release.
Griffith, an attorney based in McAllen, filed suit against USAA Texas Lloyd's Company in April 2014, after he claims the company denied or underpaid a claim he submitted following a massive storm in 2012, court records show.
The man's home was damaged as a result of the storm, with substantial structural and exterior damage, the release states.
" Specifically, plaintiff's roof sustained extensive damage during the storm. Water intrusion through the roof caused significant damage throughout the entire home and garage including, but not limited to, the home's ceilings, walls, insulation and flooring," the lawsuit states. "Plaintiff's home also sustained substantial structural and exterior damage during the storm including, but not limited to, the siding and windows, as well as damage to the pool, pool deck, fence and satellite dish. Shortly after the storm, plaintiff filed a claim with his insurance company, USAA, for the damages to his home caused by the storm."
The trial began Feb. 2 and ended Feb. 7, nearly three years after the original petition was submitted on April 19, 2014, court records show.
Mostyn Law, a Houston-based law firm and the team representing Griffith in the suit, said the insurance company incorrectly told their client he would not be fully covered after the storm.
"(Griffith) submitted a policy claim and USAA assigned AllCat Claims as the adjuster to inspect the property, but they failed to fully examine his home, understated the extent of damage, and wrongly said his policy wouldn't cover all of the repairs and offered an 'inadequate, unfair settlement,' that would have left the man 'considerably underpaid," a news release from Mostyn Law states.
"Jurors in their decision also said USAA failed to comply with the homeowner's insurance policy; failed to produce prompt, fair and equitable settlement of the claim, and knowingly made false statements," the release states.
The nearly $2 million award comes on the heels of the introduction of legislation aimed at curtailing abusive litigation and protecting homeowners who want to sue their insurance company.
On Monday, state Sen. Kelly Hancock and state Rep. Greg Bonnen, filed Senate Bill 10 and House Bill 1774, both related to insurance claims and certain prohibited acts and practices in the business of insurance, according to the bills.
Texans for Lawsuit Reform President Richard J. Trabulsi Jr. said in a news release that hail-related litigation is the worst area of lawsuit abuse in the state.
"If left unchecked, it will hurt every Texas homeowner through increased property insurance premiums and deductibles, or reduced or lost coverage. We are pleased that Sen. Hancock and Rep. Bonnen's legislation provides a common-sense solution that will stop this abusive litigation and protect the right of every Texas homeowner to sue their insurance company if it fails to pay timely, or acts unfairly or in bad faith," the release states.
Amber Mostyn, a representative from the law firm, said the jurors' decision was a "major" consumer protection victory.
"USAA committed fraud, but Texas consumer protection laws got justice for our client," Mostyn said. "These insurance company abuses have become all too common, placing profits over people."