Timely Appeals of Insurance Denials in Ohio Under Curry v. Columbia Gas of Ohio, Inc.
In the case of Curry v. Columbia Gas of Ohio, Inc., the importance of hiring an experienced Ohio insurance claim lawyer becomes clear. The lower court had granted summary judgment in favor of the City of Mansfield, Columbia Gas of Ohio, Inc., and the Richland County Land Reutilization Corporation. Additionally, a motion to dismiss was granted in favor of the Ohio Department of Insurance, the Ohio FAIR Plan Underwriting Association and William Bretnell and PT&C Forensic Consulting Services.
The Curry case involves complaints sent to the City several times between 2012 and 2014 regarding the quality of the water at the complainant’s residence. The City conducted testing but did not find any issues. Further complaints were filed regarding leaks in pipes and other parts of the water distribution system which allegedly resulted in sinkholes and flooding. The City again conducted an inspection, found no leaks but did identify a possible problem with some of the water line. The complainant still had issues on her property and reported the smell of gas near her house to Columbia Gas. The court stated that Columbia apparently investigated but found no leak. In 2015, an explosion took place beside her house and the complainant cited property damage from the explosion. The explosion caused her property to shift and a joist to break away in her basement. She contacted Columbia Gas and they sent two service technicians to test for leaks. The technicians found no leaks or evidence of an explosion but did find water flooding in the basement of an abandoned house behind her property. This house, however, had been disconnected from natural gas for several years. It was further alleged that after this house was demolished, the Land Bank, through an agreement with the City, improperly filled in the ground and caused more flooding issues.
The complainant made a claim for property damage under her homeowner’s insurance policy. PT&C forensic consultants inspected her and her neighbor’s property but found no evidence of an explosion and ultimately found that any damage caused to the property was due to the long-term movement of soil and prior framing alterations. As a result, the homeowner’s insurance claim was denied. The damage was found to not to have been caused by conditions covered under the policy. An appeal was filed to the Board of Governors and the denial was affirmed. As with many cases, there was only 15 days from the date of mailing of the final order of denial to appeal the matter to the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. In this case, however, the appeal was not filed within this time frame. Because of this, the case was dismissed by the trial court. The appellate court heard this case even though there were errors made in the appeal filing itself but ultimately held that there were no errors by the trial court. This case illustrates the importance of consulting with an experienced insurance claim lawyer. Not only was the appeal not filed in a timely fashion, but the appellant was found to not have exhausted administrative remedies, and this had no right to be in the court. As a harsh result, the case was dismissed.
Dennis P. Sawan
Licensed in Ohio and Georgia
Christopher A. Sawan
Licensed in Ohio and Michigan