A civil jury has awarded more than $18 million in damages to the owner of a dormant Oklahoma City office complex damaged by hail storms in 2009, court records show.
Lincoln Plaza Renaissance Center sued Lloyd's of London for breach of contract in 2010, claiming the insurance underwriter failed to promptly, thoroughly and fairly investigate its claim, denying policy coverage and refusing to pay the cost to repair “significant damage” to the structures at 4545 Lincoln Boulevard.
Attorneys characterized Lincoln Plaza Renaissance Center as a “total loss” after water from the storms damaged the building's interior, and claimed the owner was prevented from developing the property. The company sought in excess of $10 million in damages.
Jurors, after hearing nearly two weeks of testimony in the case, found that Lloyd's of London “recklessly disregarded its duty to deal fairly and act in good faith with its insured,” court records show.
The panel awarded $11.629 million in actual damages and $7.023 million in punitive damages, finding that the underwriters at Lloyd's of London, “intentionally and with malice breached its duty to deal fairly and act in good faith with its insured,” records show.
“The jury found it was Lloyd's responsibility to fix the damage to the property and it did not do that,” said Shannon Davies, a partner in the Edmond law firm that represented the property’s owner.
Attorneys for Lloyd's of London claimed the insurance underwriter promptly investigated the claim and paid all amounts due under the policy. Delays in the investigation, they said in court papers, “were caused by the plaintiff and its failure to cooperate with Lloyd's.”
Attorneys for the underwriter could not be reached for comment Friday.
They are expected to file an appeal in the case.
The complex, built in 1967 along with the neighboring Lincoln Plaza Hotel (also empty and owned separately by Richard Tanenbaum), was bought in 2006 by California investor Dr. Vinod Gupta. At the time it was 100 percent occupied.
The massive hailstorm of May 16, 2010, pummeled a wide swath across the Oklahoma City metro area. It left so much damage that so many out-of-state roofing companies flocked in needing space to lease it improved industrial property stats for a year. The hail wrecked the roof of 45-year-old Lincoln Plaza Renaissance Center.
With roof repairs hamstrung by the insurance claims process — perhaps by the sheer volume of claims here that spring — heavy rains just less than a month later, on June 14, flooded tens of thousands of square feet of space in the office building. Most of it was space long leased by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.
By summer, the health care authority was vacating the premises, some 150,000 square feet. Before long, other tenants — also state agencies — were abandoning the complex, invoking a 30-day opt-out clause in all state office lease agreements. Many, including the health care authority, landed at Shepherd Mall.
The office building was "in chaos for two months," said property manager Amil Gupta in an April 2012 interview with The Oklahoman.
For one period, 18 tractor-trailers loaded with fans and other machinery and huge tubes connecting to the building through doors and broken windows had the place looking like a giant industrial octopus. By spring, 2011, the complex was almost 100 percent vacant.