The Mississippi Court of Appeals has upheld a ruling that the owners of a Bay St. Louis restaurant cannot collect more than $300,000 they claimed to be owed by a local insurance agent after their business washed away in Hurricane Katrina.
Anthony Trapani and his wife Jolynna had sued David Treutel Jr., a longtime insurance agent, following the 2005 storm. The couple claimed he failed to place as much insurance on their restaurant as they ordered before Katrina.
The Trapanis alleged that they ultimately received $314,678 less from insurance proceeds than they anticipated. Their lawsuit sought that much in damages.
Circuit Judge Roger Clark ruled that the Trapanis did not prove their case and upheld the lower court in granting a directed verdict in favor of agent Treutel.
According to court records, the Trapanis claimed that after Hurricane Ivan in 2004, they contacted Treutel Insurance Agency in about increasing their restaurant’s wind/hail policies coverage limits, and asked that the agency make the following changes, among others: to increase the structure coverage from $149,477 to $300,000; to increase the contents coverage from $76,794 to $150,000; and to increase the business interruption coverage from $35,000 to $300,000. Other suggested changes were undisputed.
On Aug. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated Bay St. Louis, leaving virtually nothing remaining of Trapani Eatery’s structure. Jolynne Trapani claims that after Katrina, she learned for the first time that Treutel had not increased the wind policy’s limits on the structure, contents, and business interruption, as she requested.
Treutel disputed Jolynne’s claims that she asked him to make any other changes to the policies other than the changes he made. He claims that he made the following changes after his meeting with Jolynne in the summer of 2005: he increased the limits of coverage under the fire insurance policy to $150,000 for personal property and to $200,000 for loss of business income; and he increased the windstorm insurance policy coverage from $35,000 to $200,000 for loss of business income.
According to Treutel, the Trepanis also had purchased flood insurance for the first time — $100,000 of coverage on the building and $100,000 for their personal property. Treutel further said that he did not increase the limits of coverage for the building and the personal property under the windstorm policy nor did he increase the limit of coverage for the building structure under the fire insurance policy.