An Oklahoma judge has ordered Farmers Insurance and a subsidiary to pay a total of $15 million to three plaintiffs who filed claims for damage to their homes caused by a deadly tornado that struck Woodward in 2012.
The plaintiffs alleged that Farmers Insurance and Foremost Insurance Group underpaid claims and used adjusters that they knew would offer low estimates, and District Judge Ray Dean Linder agreed.
“I was shocked at the disservice that was rendered by the defendants in each of the three cases,” Linder said in his verdict issued last week.
The judge ordered the insurance companies to pay $2 million for bad faith and breach of duty and $3 million in punitive damages to each of the three plaintiffs.
Farmers Insurance is still reviewing the judge’s decision and evaluating its next step, said company spokesman Luis Sahagun.
The EF-3 tornado hit Woodward in April 2012, killing six people and injuring 29.
Attorney Jeff Marr filed the lawsuits on behalf of homeowners Sterling Parks, Jeff and Mary Sharpe and Kim and Linda Louthan. He has also filed lawsuits against insurance companies over the May 2013 tornadoes that hit Moore and other Oklahoma towns.
“For every one or two or three – in this case – who stand up and say they won’t take it, there are a thousand who take it, because in many cases the people don’t have a choice,” Marr said. “They are often left in a situation where their house is unlivable and they can’t afford to foot the bill to stay somewhere else or fix the home themselves.”
According to the lawsuit, the insurance company’s adjuster determined that Parks’ home was not structurally damaged and could be repaired. The lawsuit said an engineer hired by Parks said the home should be torn down, not fixed.
“My life has been on hold basically for two years,” Parks said. “It’s nice knowing I will eventually get something.”
Farmers Group Inc. is based in Los Angeles.