5 On Your Side

Raleigh family fights insurer over tornado damage claim

Posted February 1, 2012 5:00 p.m. EST
Updated February 2, 2012 10:10 a.m. EST

— 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.