SOURCE: Katzman Garfinkel Rosenbaum

February 16, 2009 12:06 ET

Katzman Garfinkel Rosenbaum Attorneys Win Federal Jury Trial Over Hurricane Insurance Proceeds for Structural Damages at Buckley Towers

"Life and Death" Struggle for Owners Results in $20.4 Million Jury Verdict; Largest Judgment Ever Against QBE Insurance

MIAMI, FL--(Marketwire - February 16, 2009) - Katzman Garfinkel Rosenbaum Partner Daniel Rosenbaum, lead counsel for Buckley Towers, won a $20.4 million verdict against QBE Insurance Company in Miami Federal Court on February 13, 2009, after two weeks of testimony, for Hurricane Wilma damages. Buckley Towers is a 39-year-old condominium complex with 564 units in two seventeen-story towers in North Miami, Florida.

Buckley Towers owners claimed that the twin towers sustained major structural damages from Hurricane Wilma when it struck South Florida on October 24, 2005. At issue was whether Buckley Towers was committing insurance fraud for exaggerating the claim and if not, whether the damages were attributable to poor building maintenance or were otherwise excluded by the insurance policy from coverage.

"This case is of paramount concern to the Buckley Towers families whose damaged homes are in the middle of a condemnation proceeding by Miami-Dade County's Unsafe Structure Board," said Rosenbaum. "While the total judgment amount with prejudgment interest and attorneys' fees and costs will approach $30 million, I am most gratified about saving our clients' homes."

QBE Insurance asserted that any damage was due to poor maintenance of the older buildings, damages that the Board was aware of before Wilma and did not result from the hurricane. QBE also alleged fraud, claiming that the condo more than tripled its claim from $5 million in 2005 to $17 million in 2008. The Federal jury of four women and four men found otherwise and awarded every dollar requested in the closing argument by Rosenbaum. Rosenbaum, in closing argument on the 200th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's birthday, said, "The truth is self-evident, as it was to Lincoln in deciding to issue the Emancipation Proclamation."

The jury verdict was entered after approximately three hours of deliberation.

"QBE has used its 'fraud' defense several times before and continues to do so, in lawsuits by condo and homeowners associations across the state," said firm co-founder Alan Garfinkel, who heads up the firm's Insurance Disputes and Natural Disaster Law practice group. "Even though association boards of directors are made up of volunteers, they must know that they have significant rights and should not be intimidated by insurance company bullying tactics. This verdict against QBE drives this message home."

In the state of Florida, fraud defenses are asserted by insurance companies because any findings of fraud may serve as a complete defense to an insurance claim, barring recovery for legitimate damages unaffected by the fraud.

In addition to Rosenbaum, the legal team representing Buckley Towers included attorneys John Siracusa, JenniLynn Lawrence and Richard Valuntas.

The law firm represents community associations across the state of Florida and stressed that Florida law allows policy owners up to five years from the date of loss to file or reopen hurricane insurance claims.

"Associations impacted by the storms of 2004 and 2005 questioning whether their claims were properly adjusted or those that never filed claims due to concerns of not being able to meet the deductible should get a second opinion," said Leigh Katzman, the firm's co-founder. "It is also critical to bring in forensic experts to ensure the association was properly compensated for its storm damage. The full extent of storm damage cannot be determined properly by lay persons."

About Katzman Garfinkel Rosenbaum:

Katzman Garfinkel Rosenbaum (www.kgrlawfirm.com) is a full-service law firm, including representation of all aspects of community association representation. The firm presently represents over 1,000 common interest ownership communities throughout the State of Florida and has handled thousands of hurricane claims on behalf of consumers from its offices in Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando and West Palm Beach. For more information, call (800) 393-1529.

Contact Information

  • Contact:
    Daniel Rosenbaum
    Katzman Garfinkel Rosenbaum
    (561) 653-2900