Family Plans to Sue After Home Flooded From Washing Machine - NBC Chicago
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Family Plans to Sue After Home Flooded From Washing Machine

“We just want our house fixed and put back together the way it was,” Miranda Panos said

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    An Indiana family of seven says they are in the battle of a lifetime over an appliance and the estimated $100,000 of damage it did to their Highland home. NBC Chicago's Lisa Parker reports. (Published Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014)

    An Indiana family of seven says they are in the battle of a lifetime over an appliance and the estimated $100,000 of damage it did to their Highland home.

    Miranda Panos says she bought her brand new, high capacity Samsung washer and dryer from her neighborhood hhgregg store. The very first time she ran a load, Panos says she pushed "start" and left to run errands. She returned to find her three-story home flooded.

    "It was coming down over the cat walk and onto the first floor like a waterfall," Miranda Panos recalled.

    Her husband, Pete Panos, says he rushed to the appliance store for help but was turned away.

    "They said their customer service is closed today and you have to wait until tomorrow to get some help," he said. "I’m like, 'Wait a minute. My house is flooded. It’s raining in my house as we speak,' and the guy goes, 'You have to wait until tomorrow.' I said, 'You’re not hearing me at all.' I was furious."

    The family says water seeped into the walls, ceilings and floors throughout the house for days before hhgregg’s insurance company, Travelers Insurance, sent help. A cleanup crew spent six weeks ripping out carpet and tearing down walls and ceilings. Pete Panos said he felt like he was in good hands at the time.

    "Hhgregg told me Travelers would cover it," Panos said, "And for me not to worry about it."

    That all changed, the family says, when the crew suddenly walked off the job. Panos says Travelers Insurance told him its inspection report showed the machine was overloaded, and that a sock was to blame for tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage.

    "They said a sock got in the mechanism and jammed up the gear which split the bottom of the machine open from the pressure," Panos explained.

    That’s when the family says the blame game began.

    "Then hhgregg starts saying, 'Well wait a minute. We didn’t make this thing. Samsung did. You need to call Samsung,'" Panos recalled.

    When NBC 5 Investigates reached out to Samsung, the company declined to answer any questions about the case. In a statement, Travelers Insurance said there was no defect, therefore no liability for hhgregg.

    Stuck between a multi-million dollar manufacturer and retailer, the Panos’ turned to their own insurer, Allstate, to step in. But an inspector hired by Allstate hit a dead end, fast. His report cited "spoliation," alleging the washer, stored in a hhgregg warehouse, was repaired before he came to look at it. The report says because of that repair, it was impossible to tell if a defect ever existed.

    Neither hhgregg nor their insurer would comment on whether hhgregg repaired the machine before the inspector for the family could get to it.

    Washing machine floods are among the top 10 most common homeowner claims. They are generally chalked up to "wear and tear" of hoses and are covered. The Panos’ case is different because the machine had just been made, sold, and installed.

    With no party accepting responsibility, the family and their insurer say they plan to sue.

    The Panos’ say Allstate has paid out about half of their claim so far. But the work is far from over.

    'We just want our house fixed and put back together the way it was," Miranda Panos said.

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