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Florida Insurance Defense Duo from Bressler, Amery & Ross Defeat False Roof Claim In Orange County Jury Trial

Insurance defense lawyers Hope Zelinger and Austin Flickstein help American Traditions Insurance Company win a three-year legal battle amid Florida’s insurance crisis

Orlando, FL (Nov. 2, 2022) – Bressler, Amery & Ross, P.C., trial attorneys Hope C. Zelinger and Austin L. Flickstein represented American Traditions Insurance Company (ATIC/Defendant) in a 2019 lawsuit brought by Jasper Contractors, Inc. (Jasper/Plaintiff). Jasper was a roofing company and assignee of the homeowner/insured who sought a full roof replacement in excess of $130,000 stemming from alleged hurricane Irma damage, despite the roof having never leaked inside the house. After three years of litigation, two mediations, and a five-day jury trial, the Orange County Florida jury found in favor of the Defendant. Senior Judge Emerson R. Thompson Jr., former Chief Judge of the Fifth District Court of Appeals, presided.

In this case, Plaintiff claimed that the roof in question was damaged by Hurricane Irma, and that it could not be repaired for various reasons (all of which were refuted and disproved by Defendant’s expert witnesses). The damage was first reported a year and a half after hurricane Irma hit and involved a roof with multiple installation issues. The evidence also revealed that the roof had never leaked inside the property since Hurricane Irma.

ATIC denied Plaintiff’s claim, and after years of litigation, a jury trial ensued.

According to Zelinger, “Florida is in a severe insurance crisis. This is the type of case that illustrates the predatory nature of many roofing contractors.” She said, “At trial, we argued that the claimed damages were not from Hurricane Irma, but instead from improper installation, foot traffic, and thermal expansion and contraction. We also contended that our client, ATIC, was prejudiced by the late reporting of the claim and the installation of solar panels before the carrier could inspect the roof. The jury agreed.”

A recent MarketWatch article about Florida’s insurance crisis illustrates the predatory issues happening in Florida:

“[T]he biggest single reason is the ‘assignment of benefits’ problem, involving contractors after a storm. It’s partly fraud and partly taking advantage of loose regulation and court decisions that have affected insurance companies.  It generally looks like this: Contractors will knock on doors and say they can get the homeowner a new roof. The cost of a new roof is maybe $20,000-$30,000. So, the contractor inspects the roof. Often, there isn’t really that much damage. The contractor promises to take care of everything if the homeowner assigns over their insurance benefit. The contractors can then claim whatever they want from the insurance company without needing the homeowner’s consent.”

Flickstein said, “ATIC’s position was that Jasper Contractor’s Inc., was suing them for work they had never done. Jasper, the roofing company, was driving this claim. It was revealed in trial that they don’t offer roof repairs, and that the homeowner did not realize he signed a contract that was for a full roof replacement only. Our client, the insurance company won, and the jury found that ATIC should not have to pay to replace that roof.” He said, “As a bonus, it doesn’t happen every day that a husband-and-wife team gets to try a case together. Our 1.5-year-old daughter and slept peacefully while Hope and I were up each night preparing for cross-examinations and closing arguments. That, I would call a success.”

After deliberating for less than two hours, the jury found that Plaintiff failed to prove by the greater weight of the evidence that the reported damages were from Hurricane Irma.

Case citation: Jasper Contractors, Inc. a/a/o Sayad v. American Traditions Insurance Company, 2019-CA-010902-O, Ninth Judicial Circuit Court for Orange County Florida

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