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Belmont sues former insurer over flood damage

Belmont University is suing its former insurance company after a year’s worth of discussion of coverage issues from the 2010 Nashville flood.

The university is seeking damages in a complaint filed in Davidson County Chancery Court Aug. 26, after more than a year of talks between the university and their former insurer Pennsylvania Indemnity Company, also know in Nashville as PMA Insurance Group.

The university claims more than $300,000 in coverable damage from last year’s flood, but PMA claims a form in the school’s policy, one PMA claims was left out by “human error,” excludes these damages from being covered, university counsel and vice president of administration Jason Rogers.

“The university wants a complete accounting of their claims,” he said. “We believe a full accounting will result in finding no reason to deny coverage.”

The university believes PMA is liable for breach of contract, bad faith failure to pay promptly, and violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act.

The issues between the two parties began after the historic floods of 2010, the university filed a claim with PMA for around $300,000 in flood-related damages for 20 buildings. The university and its insurance broker identified twelve potential coverage extensions under its policy, according to the complaint.

In response, PMA sent a June letter to the university conceding there was coverage for “sump pump damage failure under the policy, with a limit of $10,000, which is also the deductible for the policy,” according to complaint. The letter also stated all other damage resulted from a form in Belmont’s polcy. Belmont denies this form was in the policy, and PMA later acknowledged in an August letter this form was left out of the policy due to “human error,” the complaint claims.

Negotiations between the two parties continued until May 2011. The university then suggested the parties go into independent mediation, but PMA declined to enter those discussions, said Rogers.

“We’re certainly open to further discussions with the company, but we are preparing to take the next step [in the case],” he said.

PMA has 30 days from the complaint’s filing to file a response with Davidson County Chancery Court.

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