A mental health facility in Houston has filed a lawsuit against an insurance broker and the insurance agency he works for over flood damage related to Hurricane Harvey. The lawsuit alleges that despite assurances from Paige Cokinos, executive vice president of Higginbotham Insurance Agency, that the Harris Center for Mental Health had flood insurance coverage, the facility found out after Hurricane Harvey that this was not true.
According to the lawsuit, the Harris Center paid Cokinos $70,000 per year to serve as a consultant and adviser on insurance-related matters. As part of these services, Cokinos gave numerous presentations to the Harris Center’s board of trustees related to the type of insurance coverage needed at the company’s facilities.
The Harris Center’s lawsuit alleges that in a meeting just days before Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, Cokinos distributed documents to the board related to the company’s facility at 7200 North Loop in Houston. These documents allegedly stated that the building was covered by flood insurance, and that this coverage was sufficient to cover the full value of the building as well as its contents. The Harris Center alleges that Cokinos told the board at this meeting that he had “identified no vulnerabilities” related to the building’s insurance coverage.
Shortly after this meeting, Hurricane Harvey struck Texas, causing massive flooding, considerable loss of life, and billions of dollars in damage across the state. The Harris Center was hit hard by the flooding: according to the facility’s lawsuit, the building at 7200 North Loop suffered significant flood damage as a result of Hurricane Harvey, including $405,000 in structural damage and millions of dollars in damage to pharmaceuticals and equipment at the facility.
After the flood waters had receded, the Harris Center was informed by the Texas Council Risk Management Fund that its building at 7200 North Loop did not have flood insurance coverage. The TCRMF stated that because the building was located in a FEMA flood zone classified as ‘AE,’ or “high risk,” the building was excluded from flood insurance coverage.
The Harris Center alleges that Cokinos failed to ensure that the building at 7200 North Loop was properly insured and falsely maintained that the building and its contents had flood insurance coverage. The facility’s lawsuit alleges that by doing so, Cokinos committed negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, negligent misrepresentation, violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and breach of his contract with the Harris Center.
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