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Judge allows class action in hail damage suit

February 9, 2009

A U.S. District judge is allowing certain State Farm insurance policy holders to proceed in a class action suit against the company as a result of how the insurer handled roof claims following a 2006 hail storm in central Indiana.

On Feb. 6, Southern District Judge William T. Lawrence granted the plaintiffs' motion for class certification in part in the suit, Cynthia Kartman, et al. v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., et al., No. 1:07-cv-474. Judge Lawrence found the plaintiffs met all of the prerequisites of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) and (b)(2) to allow a class of individuals to pursue the injunctive relief requested. The judge rejected the plaintiffs' original request that those with roof damage from the hail storm and had claims denied by State Farm should be allowed in the suit. Instead, Judge Lawrence defined the class seeking injunctive relief as all State Farm insured homeowners who submitted roof damage claims under their policies who didn't receive an entirely new roof at the insurer's expense, minus any applicable deduction or depreciation.

The District Court ordered that a general notice be made available via publication and Web site to inform potential class members and that individualized notices go out to those who have current lawsuits pending or decide to file a lawsuit before the opt-out date.

The plaintiffs in this suit allege State Farm doesn't have a reasonable, objective standard in place for adjusting hail damage claims and many people were denied or not fully covered for roof damage from the storm. The plaintiffs want compensatory and punitive damages for breach of contract, tortious bad faith breach of their insurance contracts, and unjust enrichment. They also seek injunctive relief in the form of an order that State Farm re-evaluate the roofs pursuant to a uniform and objective standard of everyone who made a timely claim.

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