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A stormy relationship



Published: Thu, May 17, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



By PAUL WHEATLEY

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

LOWELLVILLE -- A little more than a month after a tornado touched down in the village, at least one family is still squabbling with its insurance company to pay for the mess left behind.

Michael and Jackie Griffith, who lost an entire garage to the storm that struck around 2:45 p.m. April 9, are calling their fight for financial coverage the storm after the storm. Their home also incurred dented siding, broken windows and a hole in the roof.

Although the couple and their four children escaped injury, for a month they covered a hole in the roof of their house with a tarp and just tried to ignore a damaged gutter, which hung along the house like a noodle.

Tornado strength: Officials of Mahoning County Emergency Management Agency have said the F-2 class tornado brought 115 mph to 120 mph winds and left a path of damage 75 yards wide and four miles long. Tornadoes are rated on a scale of one to five, five being the most dangerous.

No injuries were reported, but about 15 homes were damaged with losses estimated at $200,000 by the county agency.

Finally, last week, the Griffiths received an undisclosed amount of money from their Pennsylvania-based insurance company to help replace their roof and siding. Griffith said the payment covered about 70 percent of the cost to side his home. He was told to expect a check covering any remaining costs for the home after the work is complete.

They are still fighting over their garage, which the agency wants to replace with a prefabricated one.

But Griffith's ire was raised when he heard that neighbors, such as Edwin and Patty Harkleroad, received checks from their insurers weeks earlier.

"I see my neighbors getting resolve, and here I am on the phone, fighting with my adjuster," said Griffith.

Patty Harkleroad confirmed that her company sent a check right away. But now she wonders if it's enough to cover all of the repairs and is looking into her options.

Patchwork suggested: Part of the reason work didn't commence on the Griffiths' home is that neither the Griffiths, nor their contractor, wanted to be associated with the patchwork job the family's insurer suggested.

"There is no way to patch 150 dented and dinged panels," on the house said Morrie Pitzulo, co-owner of Sam Pitzulo Homes, Griffith's contractor.

And both Pitzulo and the Griffiths said an adjuster hired by the insurer was rude.

The adjuster "referred to the missis as a liar, and not a very good liar," said Pitzulo.

"He treated me like a second-class citizen," said Griffith, who pointed to the adjuster as the bulk of the problem. "His arrogance and ignorance were appalling."

Suggestions for patchwork didn't end with the house.

Same treatment: Another adjuster, sent out by the insurer to appraise damage to the Griffiths' 1973 Corvette, proposed patch-painting the car.

The insurance company sent $2,500 to patch the car. But Griffith said repairs were estimated at $9,600, because of scrapes and chunks missing from the fiberglass body and a broken rear window.

"It's just like they tried with the house," Griffith said. "They accused us of rolling the miles back on the car. My fight has been with the house, so the car is secondary now."

Griffith said the Corvette has 53,000 miles on it and he has documentation to prove it.

Company's response: A spokesman for the insurance company said he received an e-mail complaint from the Griffiths on the adjuster but added that the company does not judge a adjuster on one assignment.

The spokesman declined to comment further on the Griffiths' complaints, and the adjuster would not comment.

The contractor agreed to repair five windows, two of which were destroyed, on good faith. Pitzulo said he didn't want the Griffiths' children living and playing near broken glass. He still hasn't been reimbursed by the insurer.

Griffith said his family's safety should have been considered by his agency.

wheatley@vindy.com




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