Shamokin magistrate sues insurance firm for hurricane coverage
WILLIAMSPORT - A Shamokin magisterial district judge has filed a lawsuit seeking more than $75,000 against an insurance firm for denying benefits for a property he owns that sustained damage during a hurricane two years ago.
Magisterial District Judge John Gembic III filed the complaint Friday in U.S. District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania, against Travelers Indemnity Company of Connecticut for bad faith and breach of contract.
The judge is demanding a jury trial.
According to the suit filed through Gembic's attorney, Edward E. Kopko, of Ithaca, N.Y., Travelers was aware of the hurricane damage at the judge's property at the northwest corner of Commerce and Franklin streets in Shamokin, but engaged in a sham investigation by blaming the damage on improper maintenance.
The complaint alleges that after sustaining large financial losses from paying claims resulting from storm damage to properties insured in Pennsylvania, Travelers attempted to cut its losses by arbitrarily canceling policies, including one entered into by Gembic on Feb. 11, 2011.
The suit claims Travelers canceled Gembic's policy without his knowledge by alleging the property was unoccupied, when in fact, it was occupied. Travelers refused Gembic's demand for coverage by contending the policy was canceled.
On Sept. 27, 2011, Gembic's property sustained more than $75,000 in roof damage as a result of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, according to the suit. On the same day, Gembic reported the property damage to Travelers and was issued a claim number.
On Jan. 9, 2012, Travelers sent a letter to Gembic rejecting coverage for the claim.
On April 1, 2012, Gembic's insurance policy expired and a non-renewal notice was issued.
The suit claims Travelers acted in bad faith toward Gembic by denying a policy renewal based upon false information and by recklessly disregarding a report filed by a local insurance agent that the property was occupied.
Under the bad faith claim, Gembic is demanding judgment in the amount of unpaid, underinsured and uninsured benefits and an award of interest on the unpaid benefits from the date the claims were made in an amount equal to the prime rate of interest plus three percent, punitive damages, court costs and attorney fees.
Under the breach of contract claim, Gembic is seeking more than $75,000 and an award of interest on the unpaid benefits and court costs.