Re: AVI’s role in our hard fought victory over the Whitakers’ Highlands, NC homeowners insurer
As you know, our Highlands vacation home was struck by lightning and burned’io the ground in less than two hours on June 23, 2010. Multiple items of personal property of irreplaceable value collected by Mary Ann and me during almost 50 years of married life including pieces from many trips both here in the U.S. and abroad were totally lost – art, antiques, collectibles, keepsakes – everything. That tragedy, unfortunately, was compounded by the complete intransigence of our homeowners insurer, which chose to dispute every aspect of the loss (except its origin, which reluctantly they acknowledged), and they steadfastly sought to impose unrealistic values and compromises on our quite large, multifaceted claim that encompasses both lost real property and personal property values. That total unwillingness on the insurer’s part to recognize reality
led ultimately to our engaging counsel and initiating litigation against the insurer in U.S. District Court here in Atlanta, in the Fall of 2010.
With the case against the insurer having progressed deep into the “discovery” phase as we moved into the Spring of 2011, the insurer totally capitulated; with the help of counsel we arrived at a mutually agreed financial settlement of the litigation satisfactory to Mary Ann and me. That settlement made us whole on a monetary basis for the primary homeowner insurer’s insured portion of our loss, including all our insured real and personal property values and our related costs, legal fees and expenses.
Now that the case is fully resolved I’ve given considerable thought to what, from our perspective, caused this settlement result to occur. First, I’d have to list our financial capability to initiate and sustain expensive non contingent fee litigation with a major national insurer. Legal and other costs accrue at an unbelievable pace.
Also, we selected wisely in engaging our attorney, David J. Hungeling, Esq. David, with my steady involvement and encouragement, was both astute and unrelenting. Last, but by no means least, are the
“weapons” we had to bring to bear against the insurer – not the least among which weapons as to the personal property claim was what we came to call the “Red Book”, conceived, created and backed up by AVI and its engaging, highly qualified and professional, personal property appraiser, Ms. Erin Hollenbank.
As I think you know, our Atlanta personal insurance representative, Ms. Dianne Nixon, of the Wells Fargo Insurance Agency, a few years ago strongly recommended that we have a professionally done pictorial and valuation inventory prepared for all our personal property both at our home in Atlanta and at our home in Highlands. (Dianne did not, by the way, recommend or place our Highlands coverage with the Highlands homeowners insurer; at the time that insurance was placed neither her company nor our Atlanta homeowners insurer wrote coverage in North Carolina). AVI was at the top of the list of several alternative companies that Dianne recommended, and my due diligence with that list led me to the interview with you and the quality list of references you provided. That, in turn, led ultimately to our engagement of AVI to do a professional pictorial inventory and appraisal of all our personal property at both our locations, resulting in a “Red Book” for each.
As I told you at the time, AVi’s work was not cheap – but in light of the events of June 23, 2010, that work was literally priceless!
The update of the Red Book for Highlands that I commissioned AVI to create shortly after the fire, in my opinion, was one of the major catalysts that ultimately led to our settlement with the Highlands insurer. Frankly, Iwas looking forward to the insurer’s counsel taking Erin’s deposition and I thought and still think that the settlement occurred on the cusp of the taking of that deposition is highly revealing. The fact, existence and contents of the Red Book and Erin’s supporting testimonial validation would have been the making of our
claim of bad faith and punitive damages against the insurer before a jury, and in my opinion the insurer did not want to expose itself to that risk.
This unsolicited letter has turned out to be considerably longer than initially I had intended. But the support, encouragement and professionalism of you, Erin and the AVI staff in helping Mary Ann and me deal with this difficult and emotionally trying situation is a story that deserves to be told. Thanks to both you and Erin; you have our unqualified blessing and urging to use Mary Ann and me as reference at any time.