2/7/2012
Around the Nation, February 2012

Around the Nation, February 2012

A look at claims events from around the nation.

By Bevrlee J. Lips , Eric Gilkey

WASHINGTON

Seattle Walloped by Ice Storm  

Nicknamed “Snowmageddon,” a punishing ice storm hit Seattle and other parts of Washington and the region, leaving a mess of fallen trees, limbs, and power lines. Tens of thousands were without power, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport was shut down, and major thoroughfares were hampered by the storm, including a multi-vehicle pileup on Interstate 90 involving six semi-trailer trucks. A record-setting daily snowfall of 6.8 inches shattered the previous record of 2.9 inches in 1954, according to Reuters.


California

100 Firefighters Needed to Put Out $1.25M Industrial Blaze

In Southern California, an Agoura Hills industrial complex fire took over two hours and more than 100 Los Angeles and Ventura County firefighters to extinguish. There were no injuries in the blaze that damaged or destroyed four of the building’s 19 units.

Los Angeles County fire Capt. Mark Savage said damage to the structure alone was estimated at $1 million, while contents damage was estimated at $250,000. The cause of the blaze was determined to be accidental, according to LA County Fire Department Capt. Ed Saldibar. The source was found to be an electrical conduit that heated up a nearby 2x4 board and “it just took off from there,” said Saldibar.  


COLORADO

Consumer Groups, Insurers Find Common Ground  

In response to an article he read about banning cell phone use while driving, Boulder, Colo. Resident Bill LeBlanc wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal suggesting that “Car-insurance companies could simply add a clause to deny coverage to customers if an accident occurs while the driver is using a cellphone.” An ensuing article in the New York Times examined the feasibility of such an idea, but was universally panned by consumer groups and insurers, who both said LeBlanc’s idea went against the purpose of insurance.


NEBRASKA

Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite 

Bedbugs were found in a University of Nebraska-Lincoln dorm room, much to the dismay of its two residents.

The women reported the bugs to university officials after one of the roommates was bitten on her legs and arms. Bugs were found in a cork board, but concerns remained about the possibility of further infestation. The Abel Hall dorm hosts hundreds of residents, so officials called in exterminators to clean bedding and clothes and exchange mattresses. Days later, a student lounge and dorm room in another building were found to be infested. The college has made attempts to educate students and, more importantly, has hired exterminators to clear the rooms and clean all textiles.


HAWAII

Big Island Gets the Shakes

An earthquake with a magnitude of 4.7 struck the island of Oahu at a depth of five miles, just 25 miles south of Hilo and 220 southeast of Honolulu, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The quake, originally reported at a magnitude of 5.0, was followed by approximately 20 small aftershocks. The largest measured at a magnitude of 3.1 about 10 minutes after the first quake. There was no reported tsunami threat. One resident stated that the earthquake gave him a “pretty good jolt.”

Eight earthquakes of a magnitude of 4.5 or higher have hit the area since 1983, according to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.


ALABAMA

Tornadoes Strike Again

Storms broke out across the state of Alabama late last month, killing at least two people, injuring more than 100, and leaving heavy damage behind.

Most tornado outbreaks in January are unusual and tend to occur in the mid-South or close to the Gulf of Mexico where there is warm, unstable air, according to Weather Channel Severe Weather Expert Dr. Greg Forbes. Jefferson County suffered a severe blow from an EF-3 tornado, with winds as high as 150 mph, and Tuscaloosa County was hit with an EF-2.

Many residents are still reeling from the massive tornadoes that ripped through Alabama in April 2011 killing more than 240 people, including 64 in the Jefferson and Tuscaloosa vicinities. 


NEW YORK

Fraud Crisis in NY Continues as Allstate Files $1.1M Lawsuit   

Fraud woes continue to wreak havoc in the state as Allstate Insurance seeks to recover more than $1.1 million from 16 New York-area defendants. A complaint, filed in Federal District Court as a declaratory judgment/recovery action, is the latest in a string of 36 lawsuits filed by Allstate in New York since 2007 and brings total damages sought to nearly $199 million.

Allstate alleges that professional service corporations were owned and controlled by laypersons, not licensed medical professionals. Additionally, it alleges that defendants submitted claims for services performed by independent contractors in violation of the no-fault law. The suit also includes claims of illegal referral to a person who had financial interest, improper self-referral, and unjust enrichment. Allstate seeks reimbursement for personal injury protection benefits it paid on behalf of its customers.

New York’s no-fault fraud is costing residents millions of dollars year after year, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Allstate is joined by other insurance carriers and several New York state leaders who seek the help of lawmakers to enact reforms and prevent no-fault system exploitation and abuse.


CONNECTICUT

Man Claims He’s Injured for Life by Toppled Tomato Sauce Cans

A Hartford man claims to have gotten more than he bargained for while shopping at a Price Rite supermarket.

Agapito Lopez, 54, filed a lawsuit in Hartford Superior Court alleging that when he reached to take a sauce can from a shelf, a stack of cans tipped over and struck him in the face, causing him to lose his balance, fall backwards, and strike his head on the floor. Lopez asserts that a litany of injuries he suffered include a cut on his nose, bruised head, strained back muscles, dizziness, and spasms. The suit goes on to state that the plaintiff was forced to pay for ambulance transport, emergency hospital care, medical care, medicines, X-rays, CT scans and diagnostic tests, and chiropractic care that were “all reasonable and necessary to his recovery.”

Lopez further claims restriction from pursuing some of the activities he engaged in before the incident and that his “ability to enjoy life’s pleasures and offerings has been impaired and will in the future be impaired to his further loss and damage.” He is seeking an unspecified amount of damages exceeding $15,000, according the court papers.

 



Bevrlee J. Lips was managing editor of Claims Management magazine (now CLM Magazine) from January 2012 until March 2017.

Eric Gilkey is executive editor of CLM Magazine, a publication of the Claims and Litigation Management (CLM) Alliance. He may be reached at 513-273-8025, eric.gilkey@TheCLM.org.

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