Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Waldo Canyon fire victim sues insurance company

LANCE BENZEL Updated: March 21, 2013 at 12:00 am

A 91-year-old Waldo Canyon fire refugee is suing over claims she was left without enough insurance coverage to rebuild her home because of a negligently drafted policy.

In an eight-page lawsuit filed March 14 in 4th Judicial District Court, Velma Rose says she approached William David Beadles, her insurance agent of six years, in October 2011 and asked if he could match monthly premiums being offered by a competitor.

Rather than raise her deductible as requested, the suit alleges that Beadles lowered Rose’s fire coverage to the point she couldn’t afford to rebuild after her home burned to the ground June 26 in the Parkside at Mountain Shadows subdivision.

The house at 2525 Mirror Lake Court was purchased in 2005 for $180,000, El Paso County Assessor’s records show.

Beadles, named as a defendant along with State Farm Fire and Casualty Co., didn’t respond to a phone message left at his Colorado Springs office.

A Denver-based spokeswoman for State Farm said she couldn’t comment on a pending legal action and wouldn’t discuss individual policies.

“We value all of our customers’ privacy, and as such we adhere to our State Farm privacy policy that we don’t speak to the specifics of any claim,” Angela M. Thorpe said in a written statement.

The lawsuit seeks at least $100,000 and marks the latest example of legal wrangling between insurance companies and clients in the wake of the Waldo Canyon blaze, which destroyed at least 346 homes in Colorado Springs’ western foothills and killed an elderly couple.

Rose and her son, Ken Rose, were neighbors and each lost homes. Ken Rose also co-owned his mother’s house and is a plaintiff in her lawsuit.

Prior to the policy change, Rose carried at least $150,000 in fire coverage, according to her attorney, Terry Rector of Colorado Springs. He said Beadles dropped the policy to $122,000 — and that Colorado Springs home builders wouldn’t agree to build a comparable home on her property at that price.

A mortgage lender would have flagged the insufficient fire coverage but Rose and her son owned the home “free and clear,” Rector said, meaning they had no lender monitoring that the house was sufficiently covered in case of fire.

Rector says Velma Rose wanted extra spending money and wasn’t told that her coverage was reduced to accommodate her request for lower monthly premiums.

“It’d be like saying, ‘I want a homeowner’s policy for my house but make sure if it burns down there won’t be enough money to rebuild,’” Rector said.

The lawsuit alleges breach of contract, breach of fiduciary responsibility, and breach of good faith and fair dealing.

Rose has lived in a rental home since the Waldo Canyon fire, with the aid of a monthly stipend provided by her State Farm policy. The insurance company notified her that the payments will stop at the end of the month.

Thorpe said the company will respond to the lawsuit in District Court in Colorado Springs.

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