1-206-467-5444 info@letherlaw.com

Wintertime Property Claims

It is the Season. Not just for the Holidays but also for winter storm property damage claims.

The volume of commercial and homeowner property claims typically increase during the winter months. This is due in large part to winter weather conditions. The typical types of winter claims include:

Frozen Pipe Claims: Exposed pipes will freeze. These types of claims trigger language in almost all property policies, including coverage and exclusions involving claims arising from the sudden accidental failure of plumbing systems due to freeze conditions. Typically, the policy language requires the building owner to take precautions to drain water lines or prevent against such freezing in order to have coverage.

Storm Drain Backup Claims: Heavy rains or snow melt can lead to storm drain back ups and flooding. These claims are typically covered but may be subject to a specific and lower policy limit.

Wind Driven Rain Claims: Particularly for those who live in the Northwest, we are used to heavy periods of rainfall often accompanied by strong wind conditions. A typical wind-driven rain claim may involve sudden and accidental leakage into a building as well as long-term water and decay damage. In Washington, wind-driven rain claims may be covered in the absence of weather exclusionary language.

Wind Claims: Winter storms usually bring high wind conditions. This can result in the failure of power utilities, downed trees, roof damage, etc. Depending on the policy language, these types of claims are typically covered.

Landslides: Heavy rainfall and wind conditions can contribute to saturated soils. This often results in landslides, particularly in the Northwest. Landslide events are typically excluded from coverage unless landslide coverage is expressly provided for.

Flood Claims: Heavy rainfall and snowmelt can lead to both river and tidal flooding. In addition to river overflow, strong King tides can result in oceanic saltwater flooding from tidal bodies of water. In the absence of express flood coverage, most surface water and floodwater claims are excluded from coverage. If a building owner has flood insurance, that insurance is typically paid by an insurer through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) under the National Flood Act. There are severe restrictions on what is allowed to be recovered under the National Flood Insurance Act. For example, in a FEMA flood claim, there is no right to policy appraisal, no right to trial by jury, and no recovery of extra contractual or bad faith claims.


Once again, every policy is different. However, those building owners who are confronted with severe winter weather should review their policies and understand what is and what is not covered.

Lether Law Group has handled winter storm-related claims throughout the Northwest. This includes major catastrophes such as the Oso landslide, the Skagit River valley flooding, the Kingston and Perkins Lane landslide losses, and thousands of water intrusion and wind-driven rain type claims. Tom Lether has been directly involved as counsel retained through FEMA to litigate claims involving flood losses under the National Flood Insurance Act.

If you have questions in regard to winter storm damage claims, please feel free to info@letherlaw.com or (206) 467-5444.


Lether Law Group Hosts the 2023 IAPL Annual General Meeting in Washington D.C.

The International Association of Practicing Lawyers (IAPL) is a select group of attorneys representing countries throughout the world.

For several years, Tom Lether has been the representative of the United States at the semiannual meetings. The IAPL presents an excellent networking opportunity for lawyers from multiple countries. More importantly, it provides an opportunity for lawyers with different cultural, religious, and geographic backgrounds to come together and discover that they all have common interests and goals. The ability to learn about legal systems around the world and exchange information in a collegial fashion with other lawyers provides incredible insight into international law.

In addition, the IAPL has become a true family of lawyers. Bonding over dinner, discussing history, politics, and legal systems in various parts of the world is an incredible experience.

This year’s 2023 IAPL annual general meeting was hosted by Lether Law Group in Washington, DC. It is the first time the IAPL has held their annual meeting in the United States for a number of years.

Washington, D.C. was a perfect setting for the IAPL. Members had an opportunity to bond over long walks to and from Georgetown, enjoy fantastic meals, experience an excellent guided tour throughout the major sites of Washington, D.C., and take a trip to the inner sanctum of the United States Supreme Court. Along the way, there were day visits to places like Alexandria and Arlington National Cemetery.

This year’s keynote speaker, Tom Lether, presented a seminar on the American legal and governmental systems, with a specific focus on the history of the debate between states’ rights advocates and those in favor of a centralized Federal Government. This presentation also discussed the never-ending dispute over how to interpret the Constitution.

This speech was presented in the context of American history and the American Civil War. Along the way, members were introduced to how these legal concepts have recently impacted the Supreme Court’s decisions in cases like the Dobbs v. Jackson decision that was cited in our newsletter.

Tom’s presentation sparked a lengthy discussion among the members about American politics and history, which underscored the importance of the IAPL organization. A link to a written version of Tom’s speech is below:

For anyone interested in the IAPL, we also invite them to follow the link below to learn more about this truly fantastic organization:

Standing Together for Maui: Lether Law Group’s Commitment to Wildfire Relief

 Aloha Friends, Families, and Clients,

 As a native of Maui and a resident of Lahaina, witnessing the devastation caused by the recent wildfires has deeply affected me, the landscapes now scarred by the flames are the places I grew up in and the home that I now share with my own Family. When the land you’ve grown up on faces such adversity, it’s not just news – it’s personal.

 Growing up on Maui, I was surrounded by a community that lived and breathed the values of unity, resilience, and the Aloha spirit. Today, more than ever, these values guide our response to the challenges faced by our beloved Homeland.

 I am proud to say that several Attorneys at Lether Law Group are from the State of Hawaii. For them, and for me, this initiative is more than just a fundraiser; this is a heartfelt effort to give back to the communities and lands that have given us so much.

About the Maui Strong Fund

The Maui Strong Fund, an initiative spearheaded by the Hawaii Community Foundation, has been established to provide rapid resources in times of disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. As Maui faces the brunt of devastating wildfires, this fund is currently channeling its efforts to support the affected communities and the recovery of the Island’s cherished landscapes. The Hawaii Community Foundation, through the Maui Strong Fund, collaborates closely with state and county leaders, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and philanthropists to ensure immediate and effective response to emerging needs.

 Our Commitment

 Given my deep-rooted connection and the ties of our attorneys to Hawaii, we felt the call to action. As the founder of Lether Law Group, I pledge to match every donation you generously offer, dollar for dollar, up to $5,000. This initiative ensures that your support has double the impact, fortifying our collective efforts for the Maui Strong Fund. Based upon my national and international business relationships within the insurance industry, we are confident that we can obtain significant contributions.

 Beyond our donation initiative, myself, our Hawaii licensed Attorneys, and our Lahaina office are providing Pro Bono (free advice) to residents seeking assistance from FEMA, government agencies, and property and auto insurers. During my 35 years of practicing law, I have handled several significant wildfire claims and hundreds of other fire losses. I am approved as a FEMA Regional Counsel and regularly represent national and international insurers in natural disaster claims. 

Lether Law Group combines the financial commitment of Lether Law Group with our extensive expertise in disaster claims and legal counsel. This makes us able to provide comprehensive support. Through both direct monetary aid and Pro Bono services, our collective endeavors ensure that those affected in Maui receive timely, effective, and compassionate relief in their moment of need.

Your Role 

Each donation, no matter its size, can pave the way for monumental change. By contributing, you’ll be directly aiding disaster relief, supporting families as they rebuild, and playing a part in restoring the captivating allure of Maui and its surrounding islands.

I urge you to share this fundraiser with your acquaintances and loved ones, for in unity lies our strength. Together, we can reinforce the unyielding spirit of Maui and contribute to its rejuvenation.

Every penny raised will be wholeheartedly donated to the Hawaii Community Foundation’s ‘Maui Strong Fund’. 

With utmost gratitude and on behalf of everyone at Lether Law Group, I thank you for your magnanimity, compassion, and shared devotion to Hawaii’s splendor.

Mahalo nui loa (Thank you very much), 

 For further information about the endeavors of the Hawaii Community Foundation’s “Maui Strong Fund,” please visit their official website:


Construction Defects In Tropical Environments

Building failures can result from a number of causes. A failure can be explained as much by weather as bad construction. For example, ice dams resulting in water and roof damage are common in colder regions. As a result, it is essential to be aware of the interaction between construction deficiencies and the environment in order to address weather-related failures.

The takeaway in many instances is that certain types of construction do not work in certain weather conditions. This is readily apparent in the tropics. For example, wood frame structures are subject to failure in regions of high heat, rain, and humidity. Steel or concrete construction is preferable.

Another example is the improper use of stucco in a tropical green environment. Exposure to marine air, salts and elevated temperatures can cause effervescence in stucco and concrete requiring the replacement of the entire building envelope.

Stucco corrosion of property in Hawaii due to exposure to marine and high temperatures

Another everyday exposure in tropical climates is marine oxidation of exterior metal. Systems such as window frames, window door frames, and metal hardware exposed to salt, marine air and high heat routinely corrode. Finally, temperature inversion, the relationship between hot outside air and interior air cooled by air conditioning and HVAC systems can lead to numerous defects.

For all these reasons, it is essential to consider what building materials and types of construction should be used in tropical conditions.

Lether Law Group’s Hawaii Office Is currently involved in several construction defect matters in Hawaii. We are proud to have several attorneys born or raised in Hawaii and licensed to practice there.

Lether Law Group has the advantage of over 35 years of construction insurance coverage and litigation experience, coupled with local know-how and an affinity for Hawaii.

If you are involved in any construction claims in Hawaii or other tropical zones, feel free to contact us with any questions.


 As noted in a previous newsletter, Division Two of the Washington State Court of Appeals issued an opinion on April 19, 2022 in Beasley v. Geico General Insurance Company and Aaron Yaws, No. 54997-2-II, which addressed the meaning of the term “actual damages” under the Washington Insurance Fair Conduct Act (IFCA), RCW 48.30.015 and holding that the term “actual damages” includes noneconomic damages. Beasley v. Geico General Insurance Company and Aaron Yaws, No. 54997-2-II.  The unpublished part of the opinion also addressed the issue of tendering “undisputed” amounts in the context of UM/UIM claims, which had not been addressed in prior case law in Washington.

 Last week, The Court of Appeals withdrew the Beasley opinion in response to a Motion for Reconsideration filed by GEICO. The Order granted the Motion for Reconsideration in part, withdrew the earlier opinion, and advised that a revised opinion would be filed.  To date, the revised opinion has not yet been issued. As a result, there is no information regarding which portion of the prior opinion has been reconsidered. Nevertheless, and as a result of the withdrawal, the earlier Beasley opinion is no longer good law and should be disregarded by insureds and insurers alike. 

Lether Law Group currently represents multiple insurers in coverage litigation in state and federal courts in Washington involving claims under IFCA. If you have questions about the implications of Beasley or general questions in regard to pending insurance claims and compliance with Washington insurance law, please feel free to contact our office.


Thomas Lether

Thomas Lether

Founder and Managing Shareholder.

Thomas Lether is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound and the University of Puget Sound Law School. He has been involved in insurance and commercial litigation since 1988. Mr. Lether’s primary clients include numerous National and International insurance companies, several smaller insurers and independent adjusting firms. He also represents a number of contractors, property owners, and business owners. His practice predominantly involves the representation of insurance companies and individuals in the investigation, adjustment and defense of complex coverage matters.