COLLIER COUNTY, Fla.- Opening statements are underway in a lawsuit over a sinkhole at Faith Community Church in North Naples.
The church says State Farm denied their insurance claim, so they may be forced to close for good. After attempts at private mediation, with undisclosed results, the trial is finally getting under way this week.
The church filed its lawsuit against State Farm two years ago. Jurors were selected yesterday. Today, the trial began with both sides presenting their first arguments.
The argument at hand boils down to this: is it a sinkhole or not?
The church says a naturally-occurring cavity below its foundation is the reason why its building is crumbling. It says the unusual wear and tear began in August 2009. But when it reported the damage to State Farm, the company denied the claim, saying a geologist hired to inspect the property ruled out a sinkhole as a cause.
The evidence will show this church was built brand-spanking new in 1999.
State Farm says that man-made scenario would not be covered under the church’s policy. “There’s a whole series of buried debris under the exact area where the church is suffering the damage,” said Frederic Zinober, State Farm’s attorney.
Last year, the church had to completely shut down, as crews ruled the building unsafe. Without money for repairs, Faith Community says it will likely stay closed for good.
“We are very happy to get in front, present our case, and get the people up there to tell our side of the story. We want a fair, we want the jury to be fair, that’s all we want,” said Pastor Shuck.
The complaint does not layout an exact estimate for damages, but states it is greater than $15,000.
Over what’s expected to be a week-long trial, we’re expecting to hear from the church, as well as several expert witnesses in the field of geology.