Termite Exterminator Pest Control Companies
There are many difficult and thorny legal issues relating to the pursuit of claims against termite companies. Invariably, the relationship between a property owner and a pest control company revolves around a written contract, which is in fact required in many states. All too often, national companies included, the termite contracts and the termite guarantees issued with the contracts contain very unfair disclaimers designed to absolve the termite companies from any responsibility or liability for damage to property. Frequently, the disclaimers are not only unconscionable, but may also violate specific state law. For example, in the Westminster v. Orkin, 285 B.R. 38 (Bankr. M.D. Fla. 2002) case, the court held that Orkin’s form disclaimers buried on the backs of its contracts violate Florida ’s Structural Pest Control Act.
Additionally, very often the termite contracts contain arbitration provisions, meaning that the property owners are deprived of a right to a jury trial and must instead have their dispute decided by an arbitration panel. However, simply because there is an arbitration clause does not mean that a property owner is necessarily deprived of a jury trial. Often, termite control companies use unconscionable and unfair arbitration clauses which illegally deprive their customers of certain rights and remedies, and this may invalidate the arbitration agreement.
Beyond the contract questions, there are many other legal issues too numerous to fully recount. However, in our experience, we have found that termite companies, sadly, often cheat and deceive their customers. We therefore spend a tremendous amount of time and litigation effort establishing violations of state consumer protection laws which prohibit deceptive and unfair trade practices, which we have demonstrated in many of our cases. We also spend considerable time establishing fraud and criminal racketeering allegations which can lead to punitive and treble damages as was the case in Orkin Exterminating v. Jeter, 832 So. 2d 25 ( Ala. 2001) , where the jury awarded punitive damages against Orkin.
Property Insurance Claims
The most important legal issues relating to claims against property owners’ insurance companies relate to the meaning and interpretation of the term “collapse” as it is used and applied in insurance policies. Cardillo Law has handled many cases for clients who have suffered termite property damage where “collapse” has been a key issue. In fact, Cardillo Law obtained the first published federal ruling in Florida favorably interpreting the term “collapse” in Sandalwood Condominium v. Allstate Insurance Co., 294 F. Supp. 2d 1315 (MD Fla 2003).
Beyond the core collapse issue, there are additionally many technical policy defenses aggressively raised by insurance companies attempting to evade their responsibilities. Cardillo Law is well equipped and experienced to deal with all of those issues, including the often invoked but rarely successful “late notice” defense. In our experience, it is never too late to explore insurance coverage and put carriers on notice, although obviously, the sooner the better.