Woodward tornado victims win $15 million court settlement over insurance claims

Three plaintiffs were awarded more than $5 million each in a court fight with their insurance company for claims made after a 2012 tornado.
by Jennifer Palmer Modified: March 5, 2014 at 2:00 pm •  Published: March 4, 2014
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— A judge found Farmers Insurance and its subsidiary, Foremost Insurance Group, liable for more than $15 million for claims three residents made after a tornado here on April 15, 2012.

District Judge Ray Dean Linder on Feb. 28 awarded each of the three plaintiffs — Sterling Parks, Jeff and Mary Sharpe and Kim and Linda Louthan — $2 million each for bad faith and breach of duty and $3 million each in punitive damages.

In addition, for breach of contract, Parks was awarded $49,278.26, the Louthans were awarded $224,202.82 and the Sharpes were given $245,967.58.

“I was shocked at the disservice that was rendered by the defendants in each of the three cases,” Linder said in his verdict.

The companies were found guilty of fraud, actual and presumed malice and acting with a complete indifference to a duty to treat their policyholders fairly.

In response to the verdict, a spokesman for Farmers offered this written statement: “We are reviewing the court’s decision and evaluating our options.”

Attorney Jeff Marr, who filed the case in August 2012 on behalf of the homeowners, said the insurers’ actions included underpaying claims and using engineers they knew would offer low estimates. He said the same conduct has been seen by Farmers and other insurers after other destructive tornadoes in the state.

“They had no plans to change anything,” Marr said. “One told me they couldn’t tell how big the verdict would have to be to change things.”

In 2006, Marr led a successful class action lawsuit against State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. for families whose homes were damaged by the May 3, 1999, tornadoes.

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by Jennifer Palmer
Investigative Reporter
Jennifer Palmer joined The Oklahoman staff in 2008 and, after five years on the business desk, is now digging deeper through investigative work. She's been recognized with awards in public service reporting and personal column writing. Prior to...
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