Alabama justices remand Hurricane Opal case

Chris Rizo Jun. 21, 2008, 1:48pm

Sue Bell Cobb

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (Legal Newsline)-A Hurricane Opal lawsuit that has wound its way through Alabama courts for a decade has been bounced back to square one by the state Supreme Court.

The high court ruled this week that a Coffee County judge erred in his ruling on the side of Alfa Mutual Insurance Co., dismissing allegations the insurance company it acted in bad faith in denying a claim by Harold and Pam Jones following Hurricane Opal in October 1995.

The Supreme Court heard arguments in the case in March.

Harold and Pam Jones, who raise cattle on their ranch, say on Oct. 5, 1995, they found their house, carport and barn damaged from the storm.

Alfa Mutual Insurance Co. denied their claim, saying the damage was caused by shifting soil beneath the carport.

Then in November 1997, the first time they had used their fireplace since the hurricane, a crack in the chimney caused a fire that severely damaged the home. They sued in December 1998.

Montgomery, Ala.-based Alfa Mutual has argued that the Joneses waited too long to sue and that there was no factual basis to show that the company acted in bad faith.

"Considering the evidence contained in the record that is before this Court, there is certainly a question of fact as to whether Alfa met its duty to marshal all facts necessary to make a determination as to coverage before it denied the Joneses' claim," Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb wrote for the court.

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