Judge denies dismissal of Leilani homeowner’s lawsuit

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Susie Osborne, in a July file photo.

For the second time in a month-and-a-half, a Hilo Circuit Court judge has denied a motion by Lloyd’s of London to dismiss a lawsuit brought against the insurer by a Puna homeowner.

The order filed Dec. 27 by Judge Henry Nakamoto allows the civil suit filed by Susie Osborne, founder and director of Kua o Ka La Public Charter School, to proceed. Lloyd’s had sought the dismissal of the bad faith, consumer protection, and conspiracy claims in Osborne’s lawsuit.

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Osborne evacuated Leilani Estates on May 3, and on May 25, she learned her home had caught fire after it spread from neighboring homes, according to the suit. In a letter dated June 4, the county confirmed that the property had been destroyed.

Osborne alleges she paid more than $2,400 a year for homeowner’s coverage with Lloyd’s, but her claim was denied by an unlicensed claims adjuster from an unlicensed claims adjusting company located 4,000 miles away in Little Rock, Ark. No one from the adjusters inspected or set foot on Osborne’s property prior to the denial being issued, Osborne’s attorney, Jeffrey Foster said.

Other defendants in Osborne’s suit are: Specialty Program Group, RTEA Corporation, Arm Claims Inc. and John Mullen and Co. Inc.

“Susie Osborne is a remarkable person. She has dedicated her life to the education of our youth and the betterment of our Hawaii Island community,” Foster said. “I am looking forward to presenting Ms. Osborne’s story to a jury of her peers at trial.”

Kua O Ka La Public Charter School, on 600 acres of historic coastal land in lower Puna, was inundated by lava on July 12, and is currently operating in Hilo. It is not a party to the suit.

On Nov. 13, Nakamoto denied a motion by Lloyd’s to dismiss another lawsuit filed by Philip and Lanell Haysmer, a couple in their 70s whose Leilani home was destroyed. Specialty Program Group, Arm Claims Inc. and Mullen are co-defendants in the Haysmer suit, as well.

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The Haysmers claim they paid almost $3,000 a year for homeowners coverage with Lloyd’s and allege Lloyd’s and the others failed to honor the Haysmers’ insurance claim in good faith following the destruction of the their home in a May fire during the eruption.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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