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The media announces initial jury award but lacks telling the entire story   PDF  Print  E-mail 
Posted by  
Tuesday, 10 May 2005

Another groundbreaking victory as jury sides with California family denied insurance claim, but appeals will  most likely reduce any end result

An independent report by Sheely S. Page

had acted with malice, oppression or fraud in the claim handling. That finding opened the door to possible punitive damages in the case.

Julie Radosevich, 49, won the initial punitive damage award -- which is intended to punish a wrongdoer and discourage similar conduct in the future -- against Amco Insurance Co. last week at the conclusion of a five-week trial in Oakland. She was also initially awarded $53,000 in compensatory damages to cover damage to her home and emotional distress caused by the ordeal.  This case appears to be an isolated case, but appearances are deceptive, as this is but one example of common practice that is more the norm than a rarity.  Unfortunately, the media has failed to report that these common cases of insurance claim denial and failure are becoming a nationwide scourge.  These high-profile victories are often a flash in the pan; as things are not always as they appear, especially in the notorious world of mold trials. 

Many well-paid naysayers would like to paint the picture of a plaintiff mold victim as a greedy, vindictive, and often litigious opportunist trying to feast off the meager profits of honest, old-fashioned organization of do-gooders trying to offer a generous service to the public.  These insurance customers are often portrayed as whiners who suffer from fictional ailments and are looked upon as ?pond scum? for the over-abundance of ambulance chasing lawyers desperate to take on big mold cases.

This gross misconception is a mere figment of one?s imagination and if this scenario is the first thought to spring to your mind, than some well-contrived marketing efforts have paid off.  As previously stated, things are not always as they appear, and it is time for the truth to be told.

Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange)

Doug Prutton, Radosevich's attorney, said the case began as a leak in a pipe connected to the water heater in Radosevich's home on Mount McKinley Court in Pleasanton. The burst hot water pipe was discovered in January 2002. It was unclear how long the pipe had been leaking, the attorney said.

When a plumber opened up a wall in her utility room to locate the source of the leak, mold was discovered in the wall cavity and crawl space, Prutton said. Further testing revealed mold spores were in the air throughout the home.

The insurance company, according to Prutton, initially took the position that the claim may not have been covered because the policy had an exclusion that applied to pipe leaks that lasted for "weeks, months, or years" or because of another exclusion relating to standing water under a home.  This is a common excuse for insurance companies to not follow-through with coverage.  An attorney for Amco Insurance failed to comment Wednesday, May 4, regarding their stance on this case. 

More than eight months after the pipe leak was inadvertently discovered, the insurance company paid to clean up the mold in Radosevich's home, Prutton said, but the amount was less than what the contractors had actually charged for the work. 

The media and special interest groups have unfairly portrayed mold victims as greedy opportunists; the truth couldn?t be further than this fallacy. According to a recent nationwide survey, most just want to be treated as a respected customer and have the facts heard with respect.  Prutton said Wednesday, May 9, that his client felt "vindicated" by the verdicts, a rare incidence for many insurance customers who have filed claims for coverage issues.  "Her whole goal was to show that this insurance company treated her poorly," the attorney said.

Prutton said he expects Amco attorneys to file a motion with the court seeking a reduction in the punitive damages on the grounds that they are excessive.  Additionally, as in the majority of mold cases, this one will certainly be appealed until little, if any awards will be ordered.  The common train of thought among insurance companies is to appeal until the plaintiff has no funds to go on.


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