Kut and Kill insurance denies lawn damage coverage in Sioux Falls

The insurance provider for a Sioux Falls lawn care company that killed hundreds of lawns across the city last month said it would not cover damage.

A total of 302 residential and commercial properties around Sioux Falls burned in early May, part of a widespread chemical burn due to a weed control application error by Harrisburg-based Kut and Kill Lawn Care. The company owner said an employee mixed the wrong chemical before application.

Kut and Kill’s insurance provider, United Fire Group, confirmed in an emailed statement to Chief Argus on Tuesday that it would not cover damages.

“We have analyzed the policy and have concluded that there is no coverage for Kut & Kill customers whose lawns have been damaged,” Casey Prince, media representative for United Fire Group, said in the statement. .

Prince followed up the statement by saying the reasons for not covering damages are highlighted in Kut and Kill’s insurance policy and “the policy speaks for itself”.

After: What are the dead lawns in Sioux Falls? The company plans to correct the error soon, according to the owner

“It’s far from over and, frankly, it’s only just begun,” said Kut and Kill owner Tate Eining. “Our insurer denies coverage without basis.”

Eining hired “several attorneys” to review the insurance policy, adding that the attorneys “agree we have coverage.” Chief Argus was unable to obtain a copy of the insurance policy or a copy of the denial letter.

Eining plans to fight the insurance company’s claim that he did not have adequate cover, and he decided to monitor each of the lawns of the 300 customers this month to rectify the error.

Pending a legal battle and possible resolution over whether the insurance company will cover the damage, affected customers must deal with an overseeded lawn or seek other means of repairing their property damage .

Summer seeding could lead to lawn ‘bald spots’ and difficult care

Eining told Chief Argus that Kut and Kill crews began reseeding affected properties on Monday, adding that 250 of the 302 affected clients had agreed to voluntary reseeding.

He spends about $500,000 to lay the seed, and he puts in fertilizer and a moisture manager to help hold water in the soil to help the seed germinate.

“It’s just what I can do right now, what I think is right, and what our company can afford to do right now,” Eining said.

He recently told customers in an email that they don’t have to water more than they normally do because of the moisture manager.

Cecelia Collins, whose lawn was affected by the chemical burn, has her lawn seeded by Kut and Kill.

“Apparently when your grass dies, it doesn’t kill the weeds,” she said. “We have a young child at home who is experiencing grass for the first time. She loves it, but we can’t play in our yard. It’s inconvenient because we have to drive to the park so she can play.”

While Collins is confident she will eventually get a green yard, she said she was skeptical about seeding her lawn in the summer, due to the heat. Her dad is a retired landscaper, so she knows the best time to seed lawns is in the spring or summer.

Seeding in the fall would require less water from customers and it would be easier to control weeds, said Erik Helland, owner of Landscape Garden Centers. Seeding in the summer will require heavy watering, especially if it’s hot, dry and windy, he added, and the weeds will be more resistant to sprays and killers.

Even though the seed includes a moisture manager, which is designed to manage soil moisture and reduce watering needs for germination, Helland clarified that next month’s high temperatures will still require heavy watering despite this technology.

If everything isn’t done 100% correctly, Helland said, with seed laying, fertilizer use, efficient watering schedules and more, chances are overseeded lawns can look patchy. , with “bald spots” and “resembling hair clogs”. “

Eining said he will let customers delay seeding into the fall if they prefer.

Helland encourages homeowners to check that their lawn care companies are properly covered for accidents like this before committing to a company. He added that most lawn care companies “double and triple checked” their insurance policies after the incident.

“We’re following this very closely because it’s the worst thing that can happen to anyone,” Helland said. “That being said, what (Eining) is trying to do, which I commend him for, it still doesn’t work because everyone had a nice lawn to start with, and they’re not getting it back.”

Some customers ask for turf: “You broke something, replace it”

Hazen Vennard and his wife don’t want their garden seeded. He wants grass and has called Kut and Kill a handful of times to point it out, but hasn’t heard back.

Vennard worked in lawn care when he was young and doesn’t believe seeded lawns will be enough. He also doesn’t want to pay an “outrageous water bill,” especially in Harrisburg where water bills are two or three times that of Sioux Falls.

“I understand that’s a mistake, but seeding doesn’t really stand for ‘100% customer satisfaction,'” Vennard said. “The turf is more expensive, but that’s what we originally paid for (from Kut and Kill). Their mistake cost us thousands of dollars.

“It’s like I’ve already paid for a Mercedes. If I have a car accident, I don’t want to settle for a replacement Toyota,” Vennard said. “It’s still a car, but we’ve already paid for it once and I want to get my money’s worth. Turf costs more than seeding.”

Eining said he was working as fast as he could to seed his customers’ lawns, adding that low unemployment in Sioux Falls, a seed shortage and recent rainy weather worked against him.

“I ask customers to continue to be patient and know that we have a team that is working non-stop,” Eining said.

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