A couple whose property was damaged by Hurricane Sandy has sued FEMA for denying them access to the agency's Hurricane Sandy Claims Review process by refusing to review their claim.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in the Eastern District, centers on the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Sandy Claims Review (SCR) process to combat fraud and make sure those affected by the storm could get fair insurance payouts. The program allowed all claimants to reopen their flood insurance claims so FEMA could investigate whether any additional money was owed to victims.
Denied review of their claims
Simone and David Greenbaum of Cedarhurst allege that FEMA illegally denied review of their claims and refused to issue payment they had been owed. They also allege that FEMA circumvented their attorneys from Weisbrod Matteis & Copley and dealt with them directly, and later said the couple intended to withdraw their claims. The firm represents roughly 1,100 Sandy homeowners in the claims review process.
"FEMA's conduct is disgraceful," Weisbrod Matteis chairman August Matteis said in a statement Monday. "They went behind our backs to try to trick our clients into dropping their claim, and now the agency is misrepresenting what our client said."
The Greenbaums' problem is not unique. "FEMA contacted a number of our clients and actually tried to settle their claims without our knowledge," Matteis continued. "We will not let FEMA get away with mistreating any of our clients and will take them to court every time they try."
Delay, poor communication alleged
The complaint alleged that the claims process is wrought with delay and poor communication between claimants and the agency.
"This behavior was common for SCR caseworkers handling hundreds of other claims for which WMC represented the policyholders," the complaint stated. "Despite promising fast action in the SCR, FEMA staff often failed to address individual claims for as long as a year at a time and failed to respond [to Weisbrod Matteis'] requests for information or status updates in the interim."
The Greenbaums allege FEMA closed their case as a way to clear its review backlog and save the agency "significant money."
The complaint also said that "FEMA regulations provide no mechanism for the Greenbaums to challenge the agency's decision to treat the Greenbaum's claim as 'withdrawn.'"
A spokeswoman from FEMA said it was inappropriate to comment on pending litigation.
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