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Federal judge finds Houston company wasted insurer’s and taxpayers’ money by continuing suit
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Judge Hughes

HOUSTON – A federal court was “not blind” to Cole & Ashcroft’s attempts to collect under two separate insurance policies because the company failed to document its damages, an opinion on summary judgment states.

Court records show Cole & Ashcroft, doing business as Shutters Plus, filed suit against State Automobile Mutual Insurance Company on Sept. 17, 2020, in Harris County District Court.

Cole & Ashcroft claims that a severe hailstorm damaged its property on May 9, 2019, and that State Auto performed “an insufficient” investigation, wrongfully underpaying its claim for damage to a metal roof.

Cole & Ashcroft then “was forced” to retain a public adjuster, National Public Adjusting, which returned an estimate of more than $700,000.

An appraisal award allowed for $388,892.70 in coverage and $57,257.98 in coverage for contents, court records show.

State Auto declined to make payment because it concluded the company’s damages were cosmetic in nature.

The suit was removed to federal court. State Auto moved for summary judgment and on July 8, 2021, U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes signed a final judgment stating that Cole & Ashcroft take nothing from State Auto, court records show.

In Hughes’ opinion on summary judgment, the judge wrote that on Aug. 23, 2019, Cole & Ashcroft also sued Certain Underwriters at Lloyd's, London over an insurance claim for damage to the same roof from Hurricane Harvey.

Cole & Ashcroft used the same public adjuster, who gave nearly identical estimates and the same expert, who highlighted much of the same damage as the case against State Auto, Hughes wrote.

The case against Lloyds settled in February 2020 for roughly $380,000.

Hughes found Cole & Ashcroft “offered little evidence” to support its claim against State Auto and spent “a majority of its briefing attacking” State Auto and its adjuster “rather than actually arguing facts.”

“The facts appear to suggest that Cole & Ashcroft was the party acting in bad faith. Nearly identical lawsuits – but for suing different insurers for different storms – were brought for nearly identical damage that was estimated by the same adjuster and supported by the same expert,” Hughes wrote. “The court is not blind to Cole & Ashcroft's attempts to collect under both policies because it failed to do its duty to separate and timely document its damages.

“Cole & Ashcroft collected what it needed to replace the roof yet continued to waste State Automobile's and the taxpayers' money by continuing this suit.”

Cole & Ashcroft was represented by McClenny Moseley & Associates.

Segal McCambridge Singer and Mahoney represented State Auto.

Case No. 4:20-cv-03507

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