A woman is seeking guardianship over her elderly husband as the couple pursue a lawsuit against California Automobile Insurance Co., alleging that they were wrongfully denied proper coverage and benefits after a pipe broke in their San Fernando Valley home in 2022.
Dal Woong Park, 81, and his 77-year-old wife, Seung Ran Park, brought the breach of contract and negligent misrepresentation suit in Los Angeles Superior Court last June 1. Dal Park is permanently disabled from a traumatic brain injury and stroke, according to the suit, which also states that the claim denial forced the couple into inferior housing and caused the husband to become irritable and at times violent.
In court papers filed Feb. 14, attorneys for the couple say the appointment of Seung Park as guardian for her husband is necessary because his current mental condition renders him unable to communicate in a coherent manner for any significant period of time.
“For example, Mr. Park is unable to follow a conversation of any significant length, understand anything other than basic questions directed at him or communicate his own thoughts in a coherent manner,” the couple’s lawyers state in their court papers. “Providing testimony is therefore beyond his abilities.”
Dal Park thus cannot evaluate and determine if strategic decisions in the lawsuit, such as whether to accept a settlement offer, are in his best interests, according to the couple’s attorneys’ court papers.
During a conference dealing with discovery in the lawsuit on Tuesday, Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis suggested that the couple’s attorneys check with the probate court about the guardianship appointment.
CAIC is a subsidiary of Brea-based Mercury General Corp., which dropped earlier as a defendant in the suit. In their court papers, CAIC lawyers deny any wrongdoing on the part of the insurer and say the plaintiffs were in breach of a condition of their policy.
According to the suit, the couple bought a homeowners policy in December 2021 for their one-story, 3,200-square-foot, ranch-style home on Vintage Street in Northridge. The policy provided that if the couple’s home is not fit to be habitable, the insurer would cover any necessary increase in living expenses incurred by the plaintiffs so they can maintain their normal standard of living, according to the suit.
The couple filed a claim in January 2022 after a water pipe under their concrete slab foundation leaked and caused damage, the suit states. CAIC had an obligation to tell the plaintiffs their rights, review the claim in good faith, confirm coverage, assist the couple in relocating to a house that would allow them to maintain their normal standard of living and pay for repairs, the suit states.
“Instead, the insurer has dragged its feet, transferred the claim to multiple new adjusters, insisted on countless, never-ending inspections, refused to confirm coverage in a timely manner and refused reasonable payment for repairs and loss of use required by its policy,” the suit states.
The insurer has also repeatedly ignored emails and calls and refused to provide the plaintiffs updates as the law requires, the suit states.
Due to the husband’s brain injury and prior stroke, he becomes easily confused and agitated, can get around only with the assistance of a wheelchair and cane and is cared for by his wife, the suit states.
While repairs are made, the couple was forced to move out of their one-story home that accommodates their needs and initially reside in their son’s two-story house before being given housing at a motel, the suit states. At minimum, the insurer should have provided replacement housing that maintained the plaintiffs’ standard of living, the suit states.
The insurer offered a $4,000 monthly stipend from Jan. 17 to June 15, 2022, but it is not enough to maintain their standard of living, the suit states.
Due to the lengthy displacement and living conditions, the couple’s health has deteriorated substantially, the suit states. The husband’s agitation has increased and his violent trait is unfamiliar to his wife and family, according to the suit.
“The wife now has difficulty caring for her husband, who may become violent at any point, and she is experiencing her own anxiety and depression,” the suit states.