Wrecked house is not a home as insurance debate drags on


April 28, 1991|By MICHAEL OLESKER

Diane and Robert Casho were sleeping peacefully in their Biddle Street home in Chesapeake City that morning when they were awakened by a pickup truck crashing onto their front porch, through their front door and into their living room.

"What was that?" said Robert Casho, 38, sitting up in bed. He thought the house had exploded.

"I think there's a car downstairs," said his wife, Diane, 36, rushing off to see if their two small children were all right.

It didn't immediately dawn on either of the Cashos that the vehicle -- a red Ford pickup truck -- was halfway into their Cecil County home, where it now sat in a swarm of dust, buckled walls, a sagging ceiling, broken furniture, and plaster and glass shattered through the entire first floor.

When Diane Casho ran downstairs, she found the driver of the truck, Michael Sean Eveland, 22, stumbling around all the wreckage and muttering, "Damn, damn, damn."

"Our house is gone," said Robert Casho.

From across the street came 89-year-old neighbor Frank Bowe, who heard the crash and thought someone must have been killed.

In the row house next door to the Cashos, owner Mary Robinson was not home, but the impact from the crash wrecked several large posts and a railing and her front door.

Quickly, emergency crews from the Chesapeake City Fire Company were called, as were state police and the town's police officer, Robert Nixon. Eveland was taken away in handcuffs. It took several hours to remove the pickup truck, during which time a crowd of spectators gathered.

Some were friends of Eveland's who'd been with him hours earlier. Area newspapers reported that the friends stood outside "jeering and cursing at neighbors who surveyed the wreckage."

All of this happened on the morning of last July 15. In the ensuing 10 months, the following things have happened:

1) Eveland, uninjured, was charged with drunken driving, speeding and driving on the wrong side of the road. But he has not yet been brought to trial.

2) The Cashos, assured by their insurance agent they'd be back in their home in six weeks, dug some of their belongings out of the rubble and moved into an apartment while awaiting the repairs on their home.

3) Their home was never repaired.

"We feel like refugees who can't get back to our home," Diane Casho says. "Believe me, I empathize with the Kurds."

The Cashos had to move to a small apartment. Their insurance company, State Farm, cut off rent assistance on Jan. 1, so they're paying both rent and mortgage installments each month, along with rent on a storage trailer and attorney fees.

"That's just part of it," says Diane Casho. "Our 5-year-old son, Robbie, lost his sense of security. For months, he needed assurance at bedtime that the driver wouldn't be able to drive through our apartment. There's been tremendous strain on the whole family."

What we have here is about a $50,000 difference of opinion.

"I've never seen a case like it," says Michael Scibinico of Elkton, the Casho family attorney.

"I have nothing to say," says Barry Melvin, the State Farm insurance agent handling the case. "It's a private matter."

State Farm hired a contractor to estimate damages to the house, who said repairs should run no more than $17,292.

Michael Sean Eveland's insurance company, Nationwide Insurance, sent a contractor who estimated repairs at $14,727.

The Cashos say these figures are insane. The house has structural damage, plus extensive damage to individual rooms on different floors. They hired a contractor, Hugh Lofting Timber Framers, who estimated the cost of repairs at $63,316.

All of these estimates were made last summer. Then came a second round of appraisals, which were set up in January. But, while the Cashos waited and fretted, State Farm's man didn't arrive until April 8, and his report has still not been filed.

And the Cashos continue to wait.

"It's insane," attorney Scibinico says. "Listen, you get differences of opinion between insurance companies and individuals, but not like this. What this says is: Your insurance policy isn't insurance; it's just a right to argue."

The Cashos' home was built in 1871 and sits along the C&D Canal. Diane Casho, who was secretary for the Historic District Commission for Chesapeake City, says the house is eligible for the National Registry of Historic Places.

"All we want," she says, "is to have it look like it did the day before the accident."

"The insurance companies must think they're trying to convert it into a historic mansion," Scibinico says. "But that's not the case. This is in no way a mansion. But it was a nice house, and it should be made nice again."

Michael Sean Eveland, meanwhile, is due to stand jury trial May 30. The Motor Vehicle Administration says he had six points on his driving record at one time but now has none. The Cecil County state's attorney's office says it is not unusual for a case such as his to take 10 months to come to trial.

But just about everybody agrees it's taken too long for the Casho family to get their home back.

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