Their home was damaged in the 2018 tornado. Four years later, this Brookfield couple is still in a legal battle over repairs to their home.

BROOKFIELD — The mangled tree trunks are easy to spot on Clive and Michele Milton’s Beech Tree Lane property, as are the blue tarps rolled up over the five-bedroom house’s garage and sections of its roof — all lingering after a devastating storm that hit the area on May 15, 2018.

“The roof is leaking into the bedrooms – it’s an eyesore,” said Michele Milton.

“We’re at the point where no matter how this plays out, we’re probably going to end up walking away,” she added.

Nearly four years after the severe storm caused extensive damage to their home, the Miltons continue to fight a legal battle against their insurance company which they claim failed to properly provide the money for the repairs. indispensable.

Filed in December 2018 in Danbury Superior Court, the couple are representing themselves in their lawsuit against Liberty Mutual Fire Company seeking more than $40,000 for previous payments owed to contractors for unbiased repairs, plus an additional $25,000 for damage to their home as a result. of unfinished business.

“We didn’t do anything wrong – the system failed,” said Clive Milton. “Insurance companies have deep pockets.”

Liberty said in a statement that it “does not publicly discuss the litigation. The company, however, in a court filing last month, responded to a request by the Miltons for summary judgment in the case, noting that they made an effort to resolve the complaint.

“Liberty has done everything possible to bring this matter to some sort of resolution. The Miltons not only resisted resolution at every step, but they raised the bar for litigation by filing more and more lawsuits against Liberty and filing endless motions.

State Rep. Steve Harding said he supports Milton’s legal fight and says hundreds, if not thousands, of residents in his district have not been properly compensated by their insurance companies. insurance for damage caused by the weather event of May 2018.

“In the vast majority of these cases, these men and women had home insurance and were paid completely up to date,” Harding said. “It’s been incredibly frustrating working with them and dealing with the insurance companies who in some of these cases, in my opinion, haven’t kept their end of the bargain.”

Weather service officials would confirm that the severe weather that hit the Danbury area that day included winds of over 110 mph and multiple tornado touchdowns. The storm knocked out power to thousands of residents and killed two people in the Danbury area.

At Brookfield, the storm’s worst damage was likely caused by a powerful downdraft of wind known as a macroburst, weather officials said.

“I watched the trees fall, felt the air pressure drop several times, and heard the gusts of wind cracking the window seals,” Milton recalled last week. “There was so much noise, it was like a train was passing.”

With extensive tree damage and a garage and car destroyed as a result of the storm, Milton said Liberty Mutual originally sent surveyors to their property twice and paid part of the insurance claim – funding $24,000 for a contractor to repair the roof and money to repair a destroyed garage door, as well as money for tree felling work.

But, Milton said, while repairing the roof, contractors discovered additional water damage; and while crews removed fallen trees on his home, they did not remove any from the backyard.

Another problem arose when Liberty Mutual first approved and then refused to pay for the roofing material used in the repair work, “because it was not identical to what had been there before,” Milton said. .

To complicate matters, the couple were already embroiled in legal action against their bank before the impact of the storm, meaning Liberty Mutual’s first round of payments resulted in checks being issued that included their finance company. mortgage and the company initially refused to release the sum to support damage repair, according to Milton.

Seeking help, Milton hired The Public’s Adjuster, a Windham-based firm that works to represent consumers in their attempt to collect insurance policies.

According to Milton, the first bill from The Public’s Adjuster was accompanied by a settlement the company negotiated with Liberty Mutual that would provide $85,000 for the repair work, including an allowance for window replacements.

Milton said he then received an email from the insurance company saying the window replacements would not be approved because the damage was due to “wear and tear”.

From there, he said, the situation “snowballed” and resulted in first The Public’s Adjuster being fired and then the company being added to the ongoing lawsuit.

The chairman and owner of The Public’s Adjuster admitted the lawsuit but denied any wrongdoing. He said his company was working hard for the Miltons and refuted the couple’s version of events, saying the situation ‘does not paint a true picture of society as a whole or our industry’.

Public adjusters represent consumer interests in claims settlement and are licensed separately from adjusters employed directly by insurance companies.

“We were very efficient, but he doesn’t want to pay for the services rendered, that’s what counts,” Todd Moler told the News-Times.

Rep. Harding said he’s heard of both good and bad experiences his constituents have had with public adjusters; but far more familiar is the story of the struggles the Miltons encountered with their insurance company.

“What has been done in this particular case by the insurance companies is terrible and they are certainly an example, in my opinion, of insurance companies not keeping up their end of the bargain in terms of the coverage that they provide and the ability to make people whole again,” Harding said.

In the wake of the storm, Harding consistently heard from constituents whose policy providers were making it “incredibly difficult” to collect their debts.

In many cases, this resulted in suppliers withholding funds until a contractor had completed the repair work, but “what happened was that the contractor would not come out not until he gets at least part of the down payment,” Harding said.

“The other problem that unfortunately prevails is that adjusters do not properly assess the damage and therefore individuals are not properly compensated and end up with a loss of profit or with the property not restored to the capacity it should be,” he added.

Following the experience, Harding said he filed legislation that would require insurance companies to provide a certain amount of money as a down payment for the work to be done without withholding it. It also includes language for dealing with mortgage companies who, as in the case of the Miltons, frequently collect insurance money when they have liens on a property.

“This [is] a mandate for both entities, be it the lender or the insurance company, to release a certain amount of funds for the down payment,” Harding added.

Although the proposed bill initially failed, Harding said he continues to push for its passage to help those who have struggled in the aftermath of the storm.

“I believe it’s still an issue and it could still potentially help individuals all these years later which is amazing to think and sad to think you still have individuals facing a storm that has happened. over three years ago,” he said. .

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