5 On Your Side

Raleigh family fights insurer over tornado damage claim

Posted February 1, 2012
Updated February 2, 2012

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— When tornadoes hit last April, one Raleigh family thought they were fine.

Jason and Clarissa Flores said immediately following the storm, their home appeared to be fine. They and their four children, ages 4 to 10, were not injured and, for the most part, their home looked unscathed.

"We were so thankful. Going outside and looking at our neighbors and going across the road and seeing the homes demolished, we thought, 'Oh thank God, our home is still there, and our things are still there,’" Clarissa Flores said.

Within days though, everything changed.

"About two days after the tornado, we heard this really, really, really loud pop, bang," Jason Flores said.

The bang was in the attic.

“Most of our damage is very hidden,” added Clarissa Flores.

Jason Flores said there’s now a crack that goes across the home's concrete foundation, molding and windows are now separating from the walls, there are crooked air vents and water leaks.

10 months later, the family is still trying to settle things with their insurance company, Ameriprise.

The couple believes the storm caused the home to shift, so they called Ameriprise.

Soon after, the Flores children started suffering health problems.

"We started questioning the air quality and what was in here because, every time we were turning around, someone was getting sick," Jason Flores said.

Their youngest daughter got pneumonia. Their sons, who already have serious asthma and allergies, ended up getting fungal throat infections. Jordan, 7, ended up having his tonsils removed. And the air is a special concern for Jamin, 9, he had lung surgery in 2010.

The boys’ doctors wrote letters saying the condition of the home and its contents could worsen their conditions. So the Floreses moved out and left behind piles of clothes, toys, and other "soft" belongings that might be loaded with fiberglass particles or mold!

Ameriprise sent an engineer who ripped out walls and ceilings to get a better look. Their engineer found the problems were "not the result of storm damage" but were caused by "defective workmanship in the building of the home."

Ameriprise offered the Floreses $14,000 dollars to make repairs like fixing the fence, resealing windows and patching walls.

The Floreses hired their own engineer. Robert Giles documented cracked trusses, sloping floors, and bowing walls and determined the problems were "indicative of impact and effects from tornado winds."

A report from a public adjuster shows the family's loss added up to at least $122,000, but Ameriprise stood firm with its offer.

Five on Your Side called Ameriprise. Citing confidentiality issues, spokeswoman Kathleen McClung said in a written statement, "We responded promptly to this claim when it was filed in April." She added that the Floreses received payments for damages and temporary living expenses.

"We just feel we paid our policy. We've been a responsible homeowner. We took care of our house. We took pride in our house," Clarissa Flores said.

The Floreses are still paying the mortgage for the house they can't live in.

"We want our house back to what it was. That's all we've ever asked for," Clarissa Flores said.

The Floreses are now working with an Attorney in their battle against Ameriprise.

Because of the insurance mess and financial reasons, the family had to recently make its fourth move since the storm. They're now in a rental house, near their home, that at least allows the kids to stay in their schools.


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  • superman Feb 6, 2012

    Never had any trouble with an insurance company. Claims have always been fair. Last year someone hit my car and it was a total loss. My car was about 8 years old and had about 40,000 miles. The insurance company paid me 2,000.00 more than the book value. I still had a loss when I had to replace the car but the insurance company certainly went beyond what they could have done. During a bad storm I had a tree fall on my house. They were here within 3 days. They gave me a check at that time for more than what it cost me for repairs. Some people just expect too much. Just maybe if people were not so greedy and reasonable--insurance companies might do better.

  • dollibug Feb 3, 2012

    Insurance is GOOD....until you need it...and then it becomes bad. No insurance company wants to pay for any kind of damages. Even workers comp claims are wrongfully denied...and the people in charge of making sure that this does NOT happen...actually allow things like this to go on...It is sad but it is SO VERY TRUE....Insurance companies want you to pay the premiums....and that is ALL...

  • avnvideo Feb 3, 2012

    Do not if you are a homeowner cheap out on insurance,I was affected as was my whole neighborhood by the april tornados. Some had some not so great Ins. Myself and only 1 other neighbor were insured thru nationwide.Not only did they come several times for stuff we found when doing other repairs and cut another check,but after all was said and done paid out a betterment check.Make sure your agent goes over your coverages with you ,homeowners is no place to cut corners and find out you fo not have enough interior and exterior coverage to redo what got damaged.Your agent can save your hide in the event of a huge disaster.

  • my645arch Feb 2, 2012

    Eurika1-The family did have a lot of exterior damage too. This is a situation that they have been dealing with for 9-10 months all put in to 4 min of a snapshot story. The roof has holes and patches still in place ,there is nails pulled through the siding all around, there are holes in siding too. The yard was fenced and they lost a 1/3 of an acre of fencing ( found in another neighbourhood ) and their hvac system seems to be toast. They have a lot, and do not know many people that can handle what they have. please continue to understand that there are not just these people that have issues there are more in the same battle and insurance have policies to give them an out. Theyes had coverage and they did things right, how many homes do you know can withstand a F3 tornado....i don't care what your home is made of.

  • Pseudonym Feb 2, 2012

    Quote from Mom On Call: "Ameriprise insurance is a division of American Express for those asking."

    And for those of you who don't know, AMEX is one of the sleaziest, greediest, slimiest companies around. Listen to callers to Dave Ramsey, Clark Howard, and Suze Orman who have dealt with AMEX.

  • chauncey7381 Feb 2, 2012

    I think Ameriprise and the builder of this home should pay to fix it 50/50 especially if its less than 5 yr old. Its clear this house is on a slab foundation, looks to be fairly new and clearly wasn't built to sustain tornadic winds. Hope they have a good attorney. Shoddy turnkey builder and tornadic winds is the issue here.

  • eureka1 Feb 2, 2012

    So was no damage was found on the exterior no shingle/roof damage?
    Foundation issues are commonplace and could have nothing to do with a tornado in the same neighborhood.
    I dont understand how this is making the family sick.
    For every hired professional engineer/adjuster, you can find another that will state the opposite.

  • Mom on Call Feb 2, 2012

    Ameriprise insurance is a division of American Express for those asking. Many affluent and prominent people have this as home owners insurance and do not realize how shotty the coverage is.

    The family has had to move so many time due to how disaster crisis coverage works. They have had to be good stewards of the assistance they are getting so with each move they were only given limited time at each residence. Do not judge because you do not know the entire situation yourself.

    As a past disaster case manager I feel for this family because I know other situations like this. I assisted with other families in the April tornado who had to leave belongings behind because of mold and mildew. I certainly hope that those being critical never have the need for disaster services.

  • preechin Feb 2, 2012

    Trutarblu - I happen to be the Sunday School teacher for Jason and Clarissa. They are wonderful folks who have had to face a number of challenges over the past couple of years. Just one of the challenges would break many families. We, of course, want to help Jason & Clarissa as best as we possibly can. In this case, that is a challenge b/c the insurance company is not meeting their obligation - an obligation that is even recognized by the public adjuster! The insurance company is using a classic strategy - stall, delay, and let the family run through all of their resources just so long as you do not have to pay on your obligation. I would encourage you to not make assumptions about people that you do not know. I know Jason and Clarissa, and they are not money hungry. They just want a livable home back - if insurance is not good in these circumstances, what is the point in having insurance?

  • superman Feb 2, 2012

    Seems that all of them were having breathing and health problems before this happened. Never even heard of their insurance company. How they find them? If you going to pay for insurance--best to find a well known insurance company that has a good track record. Most insurance companies will treat you fair or they wouldnt continue to be in business. Sometimes the bargain you pay for may not end up as a bargain. I wouldnt buy a diamond from Walmart. I think in this case they just figure the insurance company has deep pockets.