FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. - A Fernandina Beach couple says their gay lifestyle is keeping them from getting a fair settlement from their insurance company on storm damage they suffered from this summer's tropical storms.
Holly Hamilton and her life partner, Ellen Brooks, say the damage Tropical Storms Beryl and Debbie did to their Fernandina Beach home was bad, but they say the damage an insurance adjuster caused them was worse. Hamilton and several witnesses say the adjuster who examined her house lowballed her claim because she's gay.
"I was astonished. I was absolutely astonished." Hamilton said. "I did not think that type of hatred could make someone do their job so poorly."
The pain stared in May when Hamton's home suffered water damage from Tropical Storm Beryl. She filed a claim with Florida Peninsula Insurance. The insurance company hired Belfor Property to make temporary repairs to keep the problems from getting worse. Andy Boswell headed up that team.
Boswell, who no longer works for Belfor, says he could not believe what he heard from Mark Jager, the adjuster the insurance company hired to oversee Dr. Hamilton's claim.
"From the very beginning of it, he said 'I am not going to bother with these people. I am going to deny their claim,'" Boswell said of Jager's attitude. Boswell then said the conversation got worse. He said the adjuster told them he did not want to be here, "that these people disgust me."
Hamilton didn't hear the comments, but says she noticed a problem with Jager from the start.
Boswell says he called Hamilton to apologize for Jager's attitude.. He later told her about the anti-gay comments. That's when Hamilton called the insurance company and demanded a new adjuster.
Florida Peninsula offered to pay about $12,000 in damages for both storms -- far less than the $140,000 estimate the couple received from a private contractor they brought in for a second opinion.
Don Silver, a spokesman for Florida Peninsula, wouldn't answer questions about Hamilton's claim, but issued a statement:
"Florida Peninsula's number one goal is to treat all customers fairly and honestly. With Ms. Hamilton, after receiving notice, we immediately took all necessary steps to investigate and condemn any alleged conduct on behalf of the independent adjuster involved in this claim. The alleged conduct had no impact on Florida Peninsula's claim decision."
Jeffery Greyber, an attorney for the couple, says the claim was clearly being delayed because of Hamilton's sexual orientation.
"We had a Florida Peninsula adjuster who wanted no part in adjusting a claim for lesbian couple," Greyber said.
We tried numerous times to talk to Jager and the group he works for Crawford and Company. All declined comment because of a pending lawsuit
Hamilton says suing is a matter of principle.
"I really felt like people have differences, but this is my home. This is where I live and I did not ask for this," Hamilton said. "I was hit by two storms. I have an insurance company that I pay money to who was supposed to help me when these situations happen. And one man who does not like who I am decides he is going to persecute me and not allow the insurance company to help me repair my home."
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