Couple Alleges Fraudulent Engineering Report

Hubert and Joyce Smith's waterfront retirement dream home is now their nightmare.

"Financial, physical, emotional, mental, the whole works, it all plays on you," they say.

The Smiths dipped into their retirement to pay for massive repairs. Their insurance company gave them only $9,000 after their deductible on a half million dollar policy. They thought an engineer's findings of significant wind damage would guarantee them a larger settlement.

Their attorney, William Weatherly says, "The whole gable was ripped off the house. Wind, no doubt about it, absolutely wind."

Weatherly says the original engineer's report confirms that. And Weatherly accuses Rimkus Consulting, the engineering firm hired by the Smiths' insurer, of changing the report to benefit the insurance company.

"It said the house was racked and severely damaged by storm surge... totally different and there were clear alterations made, clear changes made in the report."

Weatherly says when the first engineer confirmed changes were made and his signature was forged, Weatherly filed a lawsuit for the Smiths. It asks a judge to restore the original engineer's report, and award the Smiths $5 million in damages.

"These engineering reports are critical. You have to get them. They have to be accurate and the thought that this is an error just blows my mind," Weatherly says.

The raised two story house was completely gutted and is now almost restored, but that is little comfort to the Smiths who feel they have been wronged.

"I think they have falsified some reports. They have certainly been non-cooperative in settling the claim. Oh, they did send me, excuse me, $9,000 to put on a $30,000 dollar roof. These people are trying to get out of paying a legitimate claim. We don't want anything that does not belong to us," says Hubert Smith.

The Smiths are suing Rimkus Consulting Group, a Houston company with offices in Jackson and Ridgeland. Also named is Rimkus engineer, Thomas Heifner, who the Smiths accuse of altering the original engineer's report.

An attorney for Rimkus says they have not received the lawsuit and have no comment at this time.

The Smiths' insurance company, Merit-plan and its claims adjuster, CGI Adjusters, are not named in the lawsuit.