Following more than two years of protracted litigation, Ted Corless and Morgan Barfield head to trial against Tower Hill Select Insurance Company in Marion County, Florida. The Ocala residents Matt and Cindy Villella filed a sinkhole claim on their policy for damage to their home and garage in 2008. Although Tower Hill's engineering firm BCI Engineering confirmed the presence of sinkhole activity at the home as the cause of the damage in June 2009, Tower Hill spent nearly 2 years deciding whether to pay the claim. After retaining Corless and Barfield, Tower Hill elected to pay the claim, but refused to pay the costs to stabilize the home consistent with the Insureds professional engineer. Later, after months of delays, Tower Hill agreed to pay a portion of the amount due, but only if the Insureds agreed to a cut down version of the repairs by an engineering firm who works almost exclusively for insurance companies on such claims.
The primary issue at trial will be the proper method of repairs necessary to stabilize the land and the building, according to Section 627.707(5)(a), Florida Statutes. Tower Hill seeks to limit its payments by refusing to provide underpinning for the stabilization of the building, despite the fact that two independent engineering firms agree it is necessary. "Tower Hill wants to make these people work to get the coverage they paid for during the time they insured this home," says Corless. "We are happy to make them explain this to a jury, especially when it's in Ocala, where so many people are suffering from these issues."
Tower Hill must feel strongly in their position, given that if the Insureds prevail, Tower Hill would likely be responsible for a mountain of the Insureds' attorneys' fees. "Tower Hill made it clear to everyone in the legal community some time ago that they want to put more of these cases before juries, and Barfield and I are happy to oblige them," said Corless.
Both Corless and his former associate-now partner Morgan Barfield are presenting the Insureds case June 11, 2012, before Judge Jack Singbush.