Nearly three dozen foothills homeowners have the right to join together to sue their insurer over alleged damage to their homes from the 2009 Station fire, but they have a ways to go to prove their case, according to a state appellate court.
The California 2nd District Court of Appeal this week found that a trial judge had improperly forced 34 homeowners in Glendale, La Crescenta, Pasadena and elsewhere to file separate claims for damages against the California Fair Plan Assn., a coalition of firms that provides property insurance to those otherwise unable to obtain it.
The lead plaintiff in the case, Melania Kazaryan, lives in Glendale.
The homeowners claimed several common factors bound together their claims that fire, soot and ash damaged their homes in ways that their insurance policies should cover.
The insurers countered that each case must be considered separately, and that if the 34 are left together, a jury could be influenced by the repetition of the claims as opposed to their merit on a case-by-case basis.
The court of appeal panel unanimously sided with the homeowners Monday, relying partly on a case in which homeowners came together to claim insurers improperly denied them after the Northridge earthquake damaged homes in 1994.
Judge Dennis Perluss stated in his written opinion that while the circumstances may differ from home to home, the case stemmed from “the same natural disaster.”
But the court also suggested the homeowners are likely to lose the case in the long run if they don’t come up with more specific proof that the Station fire damaged their homes or that the California Fair Plan Assn. did them wrong.
Perluss wrote that the lawsuit “is devoid of any specific allegations of the nature of the damage suffered, the response of [the California Fair Plan Assn.] to the claim submitted” or other detailed allegations insurers acted unfairly.
The homeowners, Perluss wrote, “would be well-advised” to make more specific allegations in an amended complaint.
--Bill Kisliuk, Times Community News