Based out of Chicago since 1916, Carter J. Auslander and Associates is a licensed and credentialed public adjusting firm. This family owned business takes great pride in the four generations of claims processing skill and expertise. Mr. Carter J. Auslander began his work at Hoffberg, Spak & Associates in 1980. The firm later became known as Theodore Spak & Associates, and is now known as Carter J. Auslander and Associates. Using extra care and dedication, Carter and his son, Russ Auslander, have helped policyholders throughout the United States with various types of losses.
Carter Auslander paid great attention to detail and thoroughly investigated the damage to adjust the Hurricane Katrina damage at the historic Latrobe building.
Carter Auslander provided a detailed account of the Hurricane claim he handled at a historical property called “Latrobe’s,” and both the trial and appellate court that heard the issues relating to the loss have provided detailed opinions. Royal Cloud Nine, LLC, purchased insurance from Lafayette Insurance to cover Latrobe’s, a “historical architectural gem,” in New Orleans. Latrobe’s on Royal is one of New Orleans most architecturally significant buildings, and is located in the heart of the enchanting French Quarter. Designed by the “Father of American architecture,” Benjamin Henry, Latrobe’s building was originally intended to house the Louisiana State Bank Now, this stunning building is used for exquisite special events and celebrations. But this classic property suffered damage as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Lafayette Insurance Company eventually accepted coverage for the loss, but the claim assessment was wholly inadequate.
The insured retained Carter J. Auslander and Associates. Auslander described Latrobe’s as a first class property that was impeccably maintained. But after Hurricane Katrina, Lafayette failed to properly pay the claim. The carrier did not come to inspect and adjust the loss with the necessary objective to properly indemnify the insureds. In February 2006, Lafayette sent an expert to inspect and evaluate the damages to the property, including the roof damage. Lafayette’s expert indicated that he believed that roof was damaged and submitted to Lafayette an estimate for repair and an estimate for replacement. Lafayette disregarded the reports. On behalf of Royal Cloud Nine, Auslander presented the claim with a complete estimate for the property damage, including an estimate for the replacement of the slate roof. The independent adjuster hired by Lafayette also submitted an estimate for roof damage, but Lafayette ignored all submissions.
David Connor, the head of Lafayette claims, ordered a third estimate. The new expert submitted an estimate of damages for the roof, but the expert did not properly evaluate the damages.
“Mr. Lehman did not physically walk on the roof, but inspected it from a manlift from which much of the damage to the roof, particularly, the hairline cracks, were not visible. Mr. Lehman prepared a roofing estimate to make spot repairs with gray slate totaling only $5,500 that did not include the carriage house, nor did it include any warranty of the work performed”
It was obvious that the carrier was looking only to give a band-aid remedy to the insured after two of its own representatives’ recommendations were dismissed.
Since Lafayette was ignoring its own experts, Auslander knew he had to present more information detailing damages and highlighting the significance of the historical nature of the property. Auslander was able to present documentation from the Vieux Carre Commission about the property. The Vieux Carré Commission’s task is to protect, preserve, and maintain the distinct architectural, historic character, and zoning integrity of Latrobe’s and other historical buildings. The Commission’s position was that Latrobe’s roof had to be replaced with genuine slate. The revised estimate presented by Auslander totaled $487, 723.70. Finally, at the end of June 2006, Lafayette sent its first payment on this claim, but despite having been advised in detail of the damages, it only paid $61,403.33. Lafayette classified this payment as the settlement.
Ultimately, Royal Cloud Nine had to file suit against Lafayette for the damages. The Court found that it was improper for Lafayette to specifically reject its own adjuster’s submission of the damages and that it acted arbitrarily and capriciously in disregarding the roofing estimates in favor of the much lower and unreasonable estimate of $5500.00.
The trial court ordered Lafayette to pay Royal’s Hurricane Katrina damages.
- It awarded replacement of the interior damage, as provided in the claim presentation provided by Auslander.
- Lafayette was also ordered to pay for the replacement cost of the exterior damages presented in Auslander’s revised estimate (presented with the information for the standards for historical building repairs) and for the replacement of the slate roof as presented in Auslander’s claim package.
- Lafayette was ordered to pay a penalty of $247,784.80, plus interest for withholding payment after the proof of loss was submitted.
- Royal Cloud was awarded Attorneys’ fees and costs
- All costs were taxed against Lafayette
- Royal Cloud was also awarded judicial interest.
Lafayette appealed the trial court’s judgment. The appellate court affirmed the majority of the order but amended the judgment to give Lafayette a credit for the deducible and reduced the attorney fee percentage, It also awarded Royal Cloud interest from the date of the judgment and an additional $62,400.00 for roof damages.