Arkansas furniture retailer sues insurance company after tornado wrecks store

SPRINGDALE, Ark. – An Arkansas furniture retailer is suing its insurance provider for allegedly failing to pay for repairs to one of its stores after a severe storm and tornado hit it early last year.

Brashears Furniture, which operates two stores in Northwest Arkansas and one in Southwest Missouri, filed a lawsuit against Ohio-based State Auto Property & Casualty mid-July for breach of contract and bad faith. The retailer says that its store in Springdale, Ark., was hit by an EF-3 tornado on March 30, 2022, which inflicted heavy interior and exterior damage. Brashears received an engineering analysis soon after, it alleges in the suit, which recommended the building be demolished and rebuilt. A bid for that was $4.1 million, says the retailer.

The insurance company rejected the bid and failed to make a counteroffer according to the suit, alleging it didn’t agree the building had to be destroyed and built again.

Brashears has received payment from Statue Auto, about $2.6 million. But after that, State Auto cancelled Brashears’ policy.

Brashears is suing for $263,500 in unpaid reimbursement of extended business income loss, as well as for losses in property, customers and vendor contracts.

Per the suit, Brashears says that it had to move the store’s remaining inventory to another location, as the building was unusable and irreparable. The company was able to make this happen for existing inventory, but orders for future inventory couldn’t be cancelled. Temporary storage space had to be obtained as a result, and that inventory had to be sold at a loss.

Brashears says it attempted to retain their employees “for months following the tornado” but eventually had to let them go as repairs still weren’t made. The retailer also says its customer base in the area has been lost. Its goodwill and reputation in the area for being a longstanding employer have been ruined, it says.

The store remains closed and damaged beyond repair, as well as being subjected to the elements, Brashears said.

State Auto has not returned request for comment. Per court filings, it denies any wrongdoing.

In an unrelated case, St. Louis furniture manufacturer Goebel Furniture is also in the midst of a lawsuit allegedly its insurance company failed to cover storm damage.

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