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Long Beach homeowner sues FEMA over Sandy claim

Citizens' group Sandy Victims Fighting FEMA held a

Citizens' group Sandy Victims Fighting FEMA held a solidarity walk for those affected by the storm, on Saturday, March 29, 2014. Credit: Steve Pfost

A Long Beach homeowner who says his home was damaged by superstorm Sandy in 2012 is suing the Federal Emergency Management Agency for denying a flood insurance claim the agency said was actually caused by Hurricane Irene.

David Clutter, 48, is suing FEMA for $168,000 in Eastern District Court in Central Islip after he was denied coverage in 2013 for foundation damage to his home that FEMA said was caused by Irene in 2011, not superstorm Sandy.

In an estimate by Clutter’s insurance company, Wright National Flood Insurance Company of St. Petersburg, Florida, the company said the damage was a pre-existing condition from the 2011 storm “caused by a long-term settlement,” according to a statement from Clutter’s attorney, Augie Matteis.

FEMA officials declined to comment Thursday, citing the pending litigation.

Clutter reopened his insurance claim and said Wright underpaid his claim, but FEMA ruled the damage was caused by Irene. Wright also denied coverage for his foundation and made no payment for the claim from Irene, according to the lawsuit complaint.

“Indeed FEMA and Wright did not pay Mr. Clutter a penny for foundation damage after Irene,” Clutter’s lawsuit states. A representative for Wright was not immediately available for comment Thursday.

Clutter also accused FEMA of denying due process in appealing the denial of his claim and withholding documents.

His attorneys said that the Sandy review process found he was owed $26,900 in the underfunded claim, but FEMA officials withheld the payment until he waived his claim for the remaining $140,000.

Clutter’s attorney said a FEMA held a telephone hearing with a neutral arbitrator in which caseworkers relied on photographs never given to Clutter or his attorneys.

“FEMA’s conduct is inconsistent with the most fundamental notions of fair play and due process and its arbitrator was anything but neutral,” Matteis said in a statement.

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