Owners of Arizona Homes Burned by Wildfire Sue Insurance Companies

By Arthur H. Rotstein | May 25, 2005

Homeowners from a mountaintop community northeast of Tucson began filing lawsuits May 24 accusing their insurance companies of failing to provide enough coverage on homes destroyed in a June 2003 wildfire.

Roughly 70 homeowners planned to participate in 16 lawsuits against 16 insurers, said the homeowners’ lawyer, Brian Kabateck, at a news conference.

However, he said, the problem is not isolated to Mount Lemmon. Nationally, insurance companies are not insuring homeowners adequately for replacement costs from major fires, he said.

“If the insurance companies who wrote insurance policies for homeowners on Mount Lemmon think that these homeowners are going to sit still and roll over and allow those insurance companies to get away with underinsuring them, they’re sadly, sadly mistaken,” Kabateck said.

Several homeowners said they asked their insurance agents to increase the coverage following a big fire in 2002, but in most instances, they were dissuaded from doing so.

Construction costs on Mount Lemmon are averaging between $200 and $250 per square foot, but at least one homeowner said he was offered as little as $89 per square foot by his insurer.

Kabateck said residents want to recover enough to rebuild their homes, and they hope the lawsuits will accomplish that.

The June 2003 wildfire, dubbed the Aspen fire, charred 84,750 acres and destroyed 322 homes. Seven businesses and four other structures were also destroyed.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Topics Lawsuits Carriers Catastrophe Natural Disasters Wildfire Homeowners Arizona

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