Battling State Farm - Garage Claim Letter

October 19, 2023

Dear Tiffany (and others),

I have been a domestic missionary for 29 years. Prior to that, I was the State Farm agent here in Grand Ledge, Michigan for 20 years. Because we do not have Internet at our home (we left Comcast after 30 years with them, because of how poorly they treated us – “Battling Comcast” can be seen on my website linked on the “what is new” page), I started our claim at our local State Farm agent’s office (Cheri Locker). Robin, a longtime employee there, was very helpful, providing me with a claim number (#22-55J268P), and the name Logan Mathis (678-249-2113) as our claim contact person. We received a computer generated email from Logan on August 29th

On September 5th we received a call from Brad Hanna (469) 442-4208, who (other than Robin) was the first personal contact we had from State Farm. Based on the conversation, Brad seemed to be a person who had some authority, and he indicated to contact him with any questions, or concerns. He sent me an email to attach pictures, and estimates, in a reply email to him. I sent him pictures, and an estimate of $3200 from Pure Green Smith Tree & Landscape (a company on the list I was given by State Farm) made on August 30th. The estimate was to remove the tree from my garage roof and haul it away. Two problems presented themselves. One was we had to sign a property damage waiver. He had explained they would need to bring in the biggest truck they owned (somewhere between 20 and 30 tons as I recall) coming back over forty feet on our relatively narrow stone driveway. The cost to put that drive in 20 years ago was $600. I am sure the cost to redo it at today’s prices would easily have been over a thousand dollars. The Consumers Energy truck that used our driveway to reconnect our next door neighbor’s electric service had already left a sizeable indentation where they anchored their truck. The second issue was they could not get their huge truck back there without a service drop of the electric line Consumers had just hooked back up. I had to call Consumers, wait for them to be in the area for such a low priority issue, then when they called, I had to contact Smith to coordinate their times. As it was explained by Smith, they were not allowed to request the service drop, it had to come from the homeowner. It was never explained if that would be me, or my neighbor who needed to do it. When I was told by Smith my next step would be to contact Consumers, I explained to Smith I would not be doing that. I said, I would rather spend my time up on the roof trying to figure out how to get the tree off of my roof myself, than setting on the phone going through all the non-applicable prompts, and never getting to a real person to explain why I was calling. He told me good luck, and admonished me to be safe. 

The next State Farm contact was a text my wife received on her phone stating a State Farm adjuster would come to inspect the damage on October 6th. By then, I had already managed to get the tree off the roof (although still right next to the garage preventing repairs), and most of the branches cut and hauled away. Joyce Park, which sets behind our property, had about twenty feet of the tree extending from our roof onto their property. Joyce Park is owned by the Teaching & Sharing Centers 501c3 non-profit which is also insured by State Farm. We participate in the Grand Ledge Fall Festival, and needed to clear the park of debris, and be all set up by October 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th. So, when Patrick Hughes arrived on October 6th things looked pretty good except for the 25 feet of the big end of the trunk I had not had time to deal with. Patrick was very nice, and represented State Farm well. 

Patrick called me Sunday night (8th) to let me know his estimate for the damage was $6000. I was absolutely shocked that you could have no real comprehension how much the garage would cost to properly fix. I asked him if he had received either estimate from the contractors I had called out in September before his visit. He found one from J&L Restoration. They were also on the list I was given when I went to State Farm in Grand Ledge to start our claim. I asked Patrick how much their estimate was. He replied $18,000. I voiced that there was a startling amount of difference between his estimate, and the J&L Restoration estimate. Patrick said you would be sending out an engineer to determine why the disparity. I later received a written estimate from Oneida Property which showed a total of $36,325.22.  

My wife had phoned some others on your list, but J&L was the only one interested enough to show up. Oneida is a local contractor she found using her smartphone. 

Tony Yurko, the engineer from Engineering Design & Testing Corporation, came by on October 10th. In my early years, before I became a State Farm agent at age 24, I was a licensed home builder. I never did much with it because the State Farm opportunity presented itself not that far after graduating from college. But, I showed Tony the improvements I had made stabilizing the garage about fifteen years ago. They included building a center beam using 2x10s with a piece of plywood between them, offsetting them so there was no single seam, and bolting the whole thing together at several points. I then used my sledge hammer, and metal connecting plates, to place two 4x4 posts at one third intervals under the beam for support, lifting the roof from its sagging. Prior to this the roof was simply 2x4 rafters butted together at the peak with no underlying support. He remarked that he was amazed that the configuration had taken a hit from that big of a tree, yet stayed pretty much intact. I remarked, my improvements probably saved State Farm over $20,000 more just in contents if the whole garage had come crashing down. I showed him the remaining two trunks of my neighbor’s tree, and the empty space left when this trunk fell. I explained the tree landed on the left side of my garage roof, and it extended fifteen feet beyond the front of the roof, and fifteen to twenty feet behind the garage into Joyce Park, and was 24 inches in diameter at the base. I told him it took me a couple of days to realize why I had to call another neighbor across the street to borrow a sledge hammer to force the garage door open to get to my own sledge hammer, and my generator. What I finally notice was the windows were askew, and the hit of the tree had apparently pushed the whole garage an inch or two out of square, jamming the door closed. As it turns out, my guess was pretty close since I was holding the level for Tony when he determined the garage had moved 1¾ inches off square in a four foot span (the length of his level). I presume this translates to 3+ inches for the full height. As Tony was wrapping things up, I told him I had a high power flashlight if he would like to use it. His additional investigation revealed more damage that I had not been aware of. 

I use a Wi-Fi hotspot tool our public library has to check my emails on Thursdays when I upload my picture of the week to my website ( My wife, who indicated she had six very general texts from State Farm, asked what I had received. As it turned out I had a bunch of computer generated emails from State Farm. By the time I sifted through them all, clicking on the links to additional pages, saving them in PDF form so I could review them in detail later, I had wasted three hours of my day. I had downloaded 16 PDF documents, most of which included nothing that was particularly helpful. Several of which lead to a screen where I had to set up an account before seeing any real details. I declined to waste any more of my time, so I do not know how many more screens awaited after a login. 

I phoned Brad again to discuss some issues, and request a copy of Patrick’s estimate, a copy of the J&L estimate, and a copy of the engineer’s report when it came in. At one point things got a little testy between us, but Brad spent over 50 minutes talking with me, and dealing with issues, which is pretty impressive considering the workload I suspect he must have. But, apparently he no longer has authority since the claim had been moved to you, Tiffany Westbrooks. Patrick had said something on Sunday which this shed light on. I asked Patrick if he had the notes from the conversation where Brad and I previously discussed the claim and options. He said he was unaware of anyone else on the claim but a woman.  

I ended up speaking directly with J&L when Sam Brinks (the estimator and project manager) dropped off a paper copy of their estimate I requested because I had not received one from State Farm. I told him I had heard nothing from State Farm about the engineer’s report. He said your estimate was so low, apparently you thought you could get by with replacing a few shingles here and there, and just patching the holes. I told him J&L was the logical choice, and asked how we needed to proceed to get onto their schedule. He told me it would require $9259.26 as a down payment, but before I signed the contract, I needed State Farm to approve the estimate, or the burden would be on us to pay for whatever you did not. So, here we are waiting on State Farm . . . again (you never even got out here until over a month after the claim date). Sam indicated if we could sign the contract soon, he might be able to get us on the schedule for late November, or early December. I am finishing this letter on Thursday (October 19th), but have not accessed the Internet to upload my picture of the week yet, so have not seen if there are any new relevant State Farm emails.     

On the email I sent back to Brad (Thu, Sep 14, 2023 at 4:16 PM) with photos I wrote, “I do not know how complicated it is to fix a building that has totally been pushed out of square by one to two inches, but I have been thinking it might be easier to sink pole barn type posts, and extend the roof on the left side to secure things, and provide a roof over where the canoe was. Then just the door area could be rebuilt square to allow the door to open. That might be a win-win for both of us. We will have to see what the contractors recommend when we get to calling for estimates.” That was when I believed the only option for correcting the “leaning garage of Bridge Street” was to tear it down, and rebuild a new one. Since current building codes would have made us move the garage, I knew the cost would exceed our policy limit, and we would not have been able to afford anything over that. Other options show it can be done within the policy limit. I still think the added posts and overhang would be a good idea to be sure everything stays in place once we get it there. I told Sam I would be willing to trade expensive wood siding for vinyl, and use our 10x20 tent (from the festival) for the garage contents to avoid the cost of storage pods, if the cost savings would be enough to cover the additional securing. We are not interested in some easy fix that will undo itself in a year, or so, when State Farm has left the picture altogether. 

I reviewed all fifteen pages of Patrick’s computer generated estimates. Considering checks are issued based on cash value (as opposed to replacement cost) I suspect these computer generated amounts cause quite a bit of consternation among State Farm policyholders, and more than a little bit of bad public relations. So, here is my common sense way of looking at where we stand.

Let’s start with removing the damaging tree from an insured structure. The Smith estimate was $3200. The whole tree was on the garage extending down into the yards. Branches as big as eight inches in diameter had to be cut, along with myriads of smaller branches, just to get them off of the roof before dealing with the primary trunk which is 24” in diameter at its base, 40+ feet in length, and overhung the front of the garage by fifteen feet. My wife and my initial hours were calculated by Brad to be $1200, plus we paid neighbor children $140 to haul smaller branches, and a teenage neighbor $10 per hour to help whenever I needed it. I spent $2000 on a log splitter, because it was cheaper than renting one for as many days as I would have needed it, and $127.19 on a farm jack. I bought these items, not because I thought State Farm would pay for them, but because I was not going to kill myself trying use an old fashioned log roller, to be able to use my chain saw, nor was I going to use my axe, sledge hammer, and splitting wedge to try to handle that size or amount of wood. I sent in the receipt on the log splitter because I thought it would be an easy way to get to the $3200 Smith figure, and be done with that aspect of the claim. I will easily put in more hours than that in labor. However, even in the initial stages, I could not devote a whole day working on this. I have other responsibilities. So, it was half an hour here, 20 minutes there, whenever I could fit it in. Once in a while we could devote half a day to the task. Just a few days ago, I put in four hours with my chainsaw until the chain jumped off the bar. I moved on to other things I had waiting to do, rather than take time to fix the chain right then. So, however you wish to calculate it using your complicated computer programs, I simply see the Smith estimate as the cap on that portion of the claim. I am making no reduction for overhead because of the potential damage from their truck, and the time demanded of me away from my other work to be a part of their “fix.” Since my deductible is $1103, that leaves $2,097. You sent me checks totaling $4910.62. $106.00 of that was clearly stated as being for the canoe. If you take the tree removal balance of $2,097 from the remaining $4,804.62 you sent, it leaves $2,707.62 to go toward the rest of the claim, and we are done with the “tree removal from the insured structure” part. 

As for the rest of the claim, considering the lowest estimate to re-shingle our house last year was $16,000.00 it appears Patrick thinks he can patchwork the shingling, and be done. The whole tree hit the whole roof. After I cleaned it all up, it might appear things are OK except for random areas . . . but, I repeat, the whole tree hit the whole roof! Scraping and sliding until it came to rest. It may be in those 15 pages of computerized reports, but I did not even notice any solution to the building being knocked out of square, nor just the issue of not being able to open and close the door. Plus, even the engineer found more damage when he used my high power flashlight. 

So, $2,707.62 is a bit short of the $9259.26 down payment J&L requires. Plus, the garage roof is still leaking. I only had a small tarp to cover the obvious holes. I usually remove two buckets of water after a rain. And, I still cannot shut my garage door. I have been using a piece of pressboard, an old bicycle tube, and a rubber bungee, to keep animals out, and offer a little protection from rain, if it is not blowing too hard. Since we have been dallying however, these issues need to be addressed before the snow flies (which will likely be about when repairs start if you do not wait too long). 

I have had three different primary adjusters since this claim was filed almost two months ago. Logan Mathis, Brad Hanna, and Tiffany Westbrooks. The only one who has spoken with me, or even sent a personal email, is Brad. He is the only reason a copy of this is not being sent to the insurance commissioner’s office in Michigan. 

After experiencing both an auto [company] claim, and a fire [company] claim, in the same year, both of which were things that happened to us without any negligence on our part, I am pretty disappointed with State Farm. After 50 years with you, I no longer have the feeling that “like a good neighbor State Farm is there” holds true as it did in my 20 years as an agent. “Like all the others, State Farm computerized, becoming a stranger” would seem more appropriate.

The comprehensive claim on my car had multi-page computer generated evaluations and estimates also. In the end, the stubborn use of those (as opposed to common sense) had State Farm turning out to be wrong on almost every point. It cost me a lot of extra time and effort, but the lasting damage was to the State Farm image (“Battling State Farm” can also be seen on my website). 

Now, as it pertains to my canoe. Because my canoe has a simulated birch bark look, I have loaned it every year for some time to our (I am a member) little 501c3 non-profit which sets up a fur trader encampment in conjunction with the Grand Ledge Fall Festival. Since the festival reduction to a single day during the Covid pandemic moved our encampment away from the river, I have not had the opportunity to take my canoe out on the river. As a two person (or more) fiberglass canoe, it is fairly heavy to lift alone (one end at a time). Like I told both Brad, and Patrick, at age 73, I would rather replace the two person canoe with two one person kayaks (giving me the option to have a friend come along when I am on the river, or a lake) which would likely cost State Farm one third to one half less. I will be donating my damaged canoe to the non-profit for continued use in displays. But, my replacement cost on contents coverage should entitle me to a boat that floats, regardless of how often I might get to use it, unless things have changed substantially since I was an agent. The local sporting goods stores carry nothing even close to my canoe. The only 15ft fiberglass birchbark replica canoe I found was at with a price tag of $4350 plus $550 shipping, but my canoe does not look like that. The closest fiberglass canoe I found that looks mostly like my canoe was at, but that is for a solid color. I would have to contact them to see if it could be customized with the birchbark look of my damaged one. Their 15ft is $1899 (plus customization costs, shipping & handling, and applicable taxes). The only reason I chose my canoe in the first place was the birchbark look. If I have to replace my canoe with a canoe, then I expect it to have the birchbark look. If you can find one like mine that is a better option than what I am finding, feel free to buy it, and deliver it to my address under my replacement cost on contents coverage.      

As I understand it, I have two years to submit a receipt for a replacement canoe. So it is a low priority compared to still having a garage that is damaged, leaks, and cannot be closed by using its door. 

Ultimately, you get to decide only one thing. How much are you going to pay toward fixing the things you insure on the repairs I am going to have made? Then I get to decide if I feel I am satisfied with that, and how much work and frustration it was for us dealing with you. Ultimately for me, even as a 50 year policyholder, I must decide where I want our $4000 to $5000 dollars in premiums we pay each year to go based on those two factors. Should they remain going to State Farm because you can look beyond your computer reports and technology, see a real person (policyholder), use common sense, and live up to your heritage as “like a good neighbor,” or do I look elsewhere for my insurance needs. Every time I spoke with Comcast they remarked how long I had been a loyal customer of theirs. It did not change how badly they treated us. 

The rest is up to you.

(printed copy was signed by me)

William Edward Gibbons Jr
50 year State Farm policyholder
Claim #22-55J268P
Date of Incident: 8/24/23



December 14, 2023 note:

In the end, we had dealt with seven different claims people, as things kept getting reassigned.



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