From Our Perspective: Church’s Journey Through Insurance Dispute

Jon Topolewski
By: Jon Topolewski
PublishedApr 30, 2024
3 minute read

Robinson & Henry’s knowledgeable attorneys give their professional insight in “From Our Perspective” where we take a closer look at successful outcomes achieved for our clients. We’ll also share our legal expertise on other cases and legal issues in Colorado from time to time.

In this episode, Robinson & Henry Litigation Partner Jon Topolewski discusses a recent case involving a church denied coverage for significant water damage.

Specializing in cases where insurance companies unjustly deny or delay valid claims, Topolewski explains a specific case involving a Highlands Ranch church facing financial strain after its insurance company rejected the claim.

The insurance provider denied the claim citing it as a flood issue not covered by the policy. However, Jon clarified that the cause of the damage was a burst irrigation pipe, a non-natural occurrence distinct from the insurance definition of a flood.

Despite initial legal challenges, Jon managed to reverse the coverage denial, securing payment for the extensive remediation costs.  With the case ongoing, Jon emphasizes the importance of seeking legal assistance early to ensure fair coverage and compensation.

Past results afford no guarantee of future results; each matter is different and must be judged on its own merits. Facts are those of an actual Robinson & Henry litigation case. 

Question: Jon, thank you for joining me. Tell me more about our client and why they reached out to you.

Jon: Our client is a church in the Highlands Ranch area that reached out to us because they had suffered a pretty significant water loss to their property. It shut down a daycare facility that they’re operating, shut down services for them for a period of time, and their insurance company had denied the claim. They were in a difficult financial position, in terms of trying to remediate the damage that had occurred, and rebuild the property. 

Question: How extensive was the property damage at the church? 

Jon: It’s pretty massive. The water flooded nearly the entire basement level of the church where the daycare facility was, then also went up through the crawl space in the facility, impacting the carpet, along most of the first floor, getting into the drywall. Water will find a way so it really found its way throughout the entirety. The remediation cost alone was over $200,000 just to handle the water damage so that it wouldn’t turn into mold or spread any farther that doesn’t even include the amount to begin rebuilding, recarpeting, drywall the like. 

Question: What were the reasons cited by the insurance company for the claim denial? 

Jon: The insurance company took an interesting position. They declared that the coverage was denied because it was what they termed it a flood, which a lot of people don’t understand or know is that the use of the word flood has a very particular meaning when it comes to insurance. Most insurance policies do not cover floods or damage due to floods. The flood is defined legally as a naturally occurring phenomenon so the body of water that overflows, heavy rainfall, and snowmelt. In this particular situation, the water damage was due to an irrigation pipe that had burst so it was a non-natural source. We believe that their position was incorrect in the policy.

Question: What were the main legal challenges you faced in this case? 

Jon: Any time that an insurance company is taking a denial position, they usually are taking that position after performing an investigation. Sometimes, talking internally with their own in-house counsel so they feel pretty confident about the spot that they’re in. It’s an uphill battle when we get those claims, but in this particular circumstances the facts in the law were on our side. 

Question: What was the outcome of this case? 

Jon: The case is still ongoing. We were able to reverse the coverage position completely, allowing the entire remediation bill to be paid. And right now, we’re working to put together an estimate for rebuilding the property. Once the property is rebuilt and back up to full operation, we’ll begin the next phase, which is making sure that the insurance company pays its consequences for the unreasonable position that they took. 

Question: What advice would you have if another organization or someone watching is in a similar situation? 

Jon: It’s important to get help as early as possible. A lot of these cases rely upon the evidence that you develop. and the longer the time passes, the more difficult it is to pull together that evidence. Also, as much as it’s about the insurance companies conduct in terms of how these claims progress, they’ll try to make it about you, about what you did or didn’t do. So trying to minimize that is important, which is why contacting us can be helpful and turn a claim coverage denial into a claim that’s covered. In addition to getting these, extra contractual damages for the unreasonableness of their conduct. 

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