Imagine waking up in the middle of the night to the smell of smoke. That is exactly
what happened to Tom and Joanna Paton in their Solana Beach condo in late 2004.
Waking up and wondering if they were dreaming, they quickly realized that the smoke was
real and filling their bedroom. They needed to get out quickly to prevent being overcome
by smoke. After the fire was put out the damage assessment was started. Luckily, the
majority of the damage was smoke. The neighbor was not so fortunate. It was determined
that the tenant had placed a cushioned chair up against a wall heater, which set the
entire unit on fire, burning it to the ground.
The Patons reported the claim to their carrier who attempted to explain the condo
coverage versus the coverage afforded by the Homeowner’s Association policy. The
condo owners felt they were not being treated fairly and retained Kim Cary, a public
adjuster, to help them with their negotiations with their carrier and the HOA and
its insurance carrier.
The main issue was where did the Homeowner’s Association policy leave off and where
did the condo owner’s policy begin?
The explanation was reasonable; the Homeowner’s Association policy included everything
from the exterior ending at the interior drywall and the condo policy begins at the
paint on the drywall and includes everything inside. The coverage started getting
fuzzy when it was determined that the insulation between the units was heavily smoke
damaged. This was the same wall where the kitchen was located. After much discussion,
Kim was able to get the HOA carrier to agree to remove and replace the insulation,
drywall and kitchen since there was no other way to replace the insulation. Kim
also negotiated and settled with the Patons’ carrier for the remainder of the smoke
damage throughout the condo.
“We worked with Kim Cary (who is now with Quality Claims Management), regarding
our property damage claim with our carrier and the HOA and their insurance company,
” said Tom Paton. “She represented us and handled the negotiation and
settlement process with the HOA’s carrier. She got it done and made sure our condo
got fixed up the way it was before the fire.”
The Patons also had a problem with the “pack out” company hired to store
their personnel possessions while the condo was being repaired. The company’s van,
along with all of the Patons’ clothes, small appliances and other belongings was
stolen from the pack out company’s parking lot. While the truck was later recovered,
its contents were gone and never found. The Patons lost everything.