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14 Months After Mpls Tornado, Homeowners Battle Allstate In Court

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(credit: CBS) Bill Hudson
Bill Hudson has been with WCCO-TV since 1989. The native of Elk Rive...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – For Jenae and Travis Hutchins returning to what had been their home isn’t easy. For the schoolteacher and nurse, the excitement of maintaining their first home has suddenly changed into overwhelming anxiety and stress.

“To see where it is now is heart wrenching,” Jenae said.

After being ripped apart by the May 22, 2011, tornado, which tore through north Minneapolis, the couple’s home of eight years is both unsafe and uninhabitable. Floors are separated from their walls and badly cracked. The outside walls of both their house and detached garage are badly bowed outward.

From the outside, the house appears to be in relatively good shape, but structurally it’s a nightmare.

“Basically, they [Allstate] said we’d have to tear it off and rebuild it,” Travis said. “The insurance company’s point of view is to push it back and re-attach it.”

Travis says he fears that simple fix would create further damage to an already dire situation. His structural engineers agree and say much more extensive repair work will be needed.

Based on the Allstate adjuster’s estimate, the insurer cut the Hutchins a check for $68,000, which they have placed in an escrow account. But that amount is far short of what the Hutchins’ engineer says will be needed. That estimate is closer to $200,000 for all the repairs.

Meanwhile, the 12-month limit on temporary living costs has expired, and the couple’s living costs continue to add up.

“Essentially, it’s bleeding us dry,” Travis said.

With no satisfactory resolution to the disagreement over the true cost of damages, the couple is suing Allstate in Hennepin County district court.

In addition to the structural damages, the Hutchins are seeking collateral expenses caused by the delay in settling the claim. They say the company needs to honor the spirit of their $250,000 homeowners policy to make them whole again.

“The bargaining power between homeowners and insurance company is very disparate,” the couple’s attorney, George Antrim, said. “It couldn’t be wider and couldn’t be more of a Goliath versus David situation.”

But it’s up to the courts to decide whether Allstate’s acting in bad faith or following the terms of its policy. Following Wednesday’s court hearing, Allstate’s attorney declined to be interviewed.

And as time passes, the damages from the tornado continue taking a personal toll.

“This is where our marriage and our family started, so it has been a very emotional process,” Jenae said.

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