KENANSVILLE – Most people can agree that time spent with family is always time well spent. For the Frederick family and several local farmers who recently received their checks for a cumulative $ 32 million settlement, a family dinner turned out to be a fortuitous coincidence.
In August last year Scott Flowers, a native of Duplin County and a partner at the Hutchens law firm, was having dinner with his family when he learned there was a discrepancy over compensation for damages caused by the policy cultures.
“My brother-in-law, Bradley Frederick, my sister’s husband, at a dinner party one night… told me how the farmers bought this hurricane insurance. And although all the reports said that Hurricane Isaias passed through Duplin County, and they all live there, they were not paid. So I told her I would find out, ”Flowers said.
Frederick said their insurance did not want to reimburse them for loss and damage to their crops, even though the National Weather Service weather reports were released when Hurricane Isaias turned from hurricane to a topical storm. “And in our area, the storm was still at hurricane-force wind speed.”
“We have suffered wind damage and excessive rain on our corn and tobacco crops, as have many other Duplin County farmers I know,” Frederick said.
After the conversation with Frederick, Flowers did some research. He looked at the insurance policy, the rider and how the government determined who would be paid.
“My conclusion was that Duplin County should have been included,” said Flowers.
Each year, farmers take out crop insurance from a licensed local insurer. Insurance is issued through the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation and administered by the Risk Management Agency of the United States Department of Agriculture and is ultimately guaranteed and paid for by the USDA.
Under the common crop insurance policy, each farmer has the same policy. The level of coverage depends on the amount and type of crops they have, as they can purchase various endorsements.
According to Flowers, in 2020 for the first time, the RMA issued a hurricane wind approval that would pay farmers if they had hurricane damage to their crops.
“The way you got paid was, after a hurricane, the RMA would publish a list of counties which are what they call trigger counties,” Flowers said. “If you were in one of those trigger counties and bought this rider, you got paid. If you are a trigger county, each county adjacent to you is also paid.
The CFI for Hurricane Damage differs from the traditional insurance policy in that it does not require proof of loss and policyholders automatically receive a check in the mail.
Flowers noted that although Hurricane Isaias made landfall near the South Carolina-North Carolina border in August 2020 and passed through Duplin County, the list of trigger counties released by the RMA did not include not originally Duplin.
“We received the letter from NAD saying it was a general enforceability request, which then gave us the right to bring a complaint in Federal Court,” Flowers said.
“Between the time we filled out the appeal to the NAD and the trial in federal court, I organized a meeting at the Warsaw fire department with farmers from the area, and we brought in a group farmers, ”he said.
Flowers presented a PowerPoint sharing with the farmers what they had discovered and what her next steps were.
“Forty different farms eventually joined our group,” said Flowers. “We filed the complaint and eventually the USDA agreed to pay all of the claims, which totaled approximately $ 32 million for farmers in Duplin County and adjacent counties to the north, which were previously excluded.
After reaching an agreement, an updated list of trigger countries was published.
“The checks were automatically sent to the farmers and after all the farmers received their checks, we agreed to dismiss the lawsuit,” said Flowers.
The process took about a year of work.
“I was thrilled to participate, especially since I’m from Duplin County. These are my family and friends, ”said Flowers.
“The most interesting thing for me is that not only do the farmers get paid, but I know they are going to use this money in the community. They’re going to buy tractors, dress their kids and go to restaurants, and the money is going to flow throughout the community, ”said Flowers. “Anyone can benefit from it. “
His advice to farmers is to make sure they talk to their insurance agent and understand what they are buying. Also, find out how they will be paid in the event of a claim under their policy.
“If you think you are being treated improperly, talk to your insurance agent or seek legal advice,” he said.
“Without Scott Flowers and Hutchens Law Firm handling this case for our farmers in Duplin County, the $ 32 million owed to them in crop insurance from hurricane damage would not have been never been paid, ”said Susan Flowers Frederick from Warsaw.