November 29, 2023


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State Farm Insurance tells Valrico woman to pay $19,000 for damages to neighbor’s house

Demand letter gives woman 30 days to pay or face a lawsuit over damages caused by a tree limb that fell nearly a year ago

VALRICO, Fla. (WFLA) – A limb from a tree in Judy Hart’s yard fell last September, damaging her fence and her neighbor’s pool cage, fence, and roof.

Both she and her neighbor called their insurance companies. Hart’s carrier is Security First Insurance and her neighbor has State Farm. Both neighbors paid their deductibles and the insurance companies took care of the repairs.

Hart thought it was over. But now, nearly a year later, she received a strongly-worded email from her neighbor’s insurance company. State Farm wants her to reimburse them for the $19,338 in damages to her neighbor’s home.

The State Farm attorney wrote, “My client has instructed me to file suit against you.” The letter states she has 30 days to pay in order to avoid litigation.

Hart was stunned. She called her insurance company but says Security First won’t return calls or give her guidance on what to do.

“Isn’t this why you have insurance?” Hart said. “Isn’t this their job?”

Hart knew she’d Better Call Behnken.

Melissa DeVriese, the president of Security First, told Investigator Shannon Behnken that the company should have done a better job communicating with Hart.

“We will not leave her hanging on this, that I can tell you,” DeVriese said after reviewing the case file.

She explained that her company had not heard from State Farm until last month after it had sent the demand letter to Hart. She said that it was an unusual move by State Farm.

DeVriese said that the only reason why Hart could be responsible is if State Farm proved that the tree limb fell because of her negligence. In that case, Security First would pay.

“We’ll either pay or defend her,” she said.

A representative from State Farm sent this statement:

Due to our company privacy policy we can’t comment on a specific case.

We can tell you that in general, after an insurer has paid its customer on a covered claim, it may seek recovery of such claim payments from a legally responsible third party – this process is called subrogation.

In some cases we are not aware of who may insure the responsible party or the carrier is not responding to us, hence we find it necessary to communicate directly with the responsible party.