Family Heirlooms Destroyed - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Family Heirlooms Destroyed

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One of Janice Bauer's broken Hummels One of Janice Bauer's broken Hummels
Janice Bauer Janice Bauer

You have something you think is valuable. Fortunately, it's insured. Unfortunately, it breaks, and the insurance company won't pay what you say it will cost to replace. What do you do? It's a tough battle, which is why one South Florida woman called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

WSVN -- In Janice's home, there is one thing she truly considers priceless. His name: Percy.

Janice Bauer: "I rescued him in, I think it was 1999. He was just a little pup. He has now grown up. He will be 15 in July."

Percy is Janice's treasure, and figurines like these, handed down in her family, are a treasure to her as well.

Janice Bauer: "They're called Hummels, little German figurines that were started back in about 1929."

Throughout the years, Janice's family collected the Hummels and gave them to her for safekeeping.

Janice Bauer: "Just knowing if they were in mom's house as a child, and my grandmother's and my father's mother's and what have you. So they've been handed down, so a lot of sentimentality attached."

The figurines were on this shelf when a company came over to clean the grout on her floor. Janice got a phone call from a friend who was house-sitting.

Janice Bauer: "And he said, 'You don't want to know what just happened,' and I said, 'Tell me it's not the hummels.' Couldn't believe that was the first thing I guessed."

Fifteen of the Hummels were knocked off the shelf and busted, crushed. Look, you use your own word.

Janice Bauer: "Many, many tears. Made the appropriate phone calls to the parents and I came home and went through the rubble, piece by piece."

Fortunately, the cleaning company had insurance, but Janice said she was stunned by their offer for these broken figurines.

Janice Bauer: "For all these pieces she gave me a quote of $415."

Janice had done her research and says she knew what it would cost to replace the collector's items.

Janice Bauer: "Minimum, $2,000 to $3,000."

The insurance adjuster told Janice the pieces weren't as valuable as she thought. Janice says they're wrong.

Janice Bauer: "Again, the sentimentality can never be replaced, but I certainly would like to have a good fair value rather than nickel-and-diming it."

Well, Howard, Janice says these collector's items are worth much more the insurance adjuster believes, so legally, what can she do?

Howard Finkelstein: "Legally, this is pretty simple. Janice is entitled to what the law calls the fair market value, meaning what those pieces would have sold for on the day they were broken. If you disagree with the insurance about their value, you can hire an expert. If they give it a different value and the insurance company still won't pay, go to court and let a judge decide."

I spoke to the insurance company. They did raise their offer from $415 to $850, but Janice thinks they are worth more, so I did what Howard suggested.

Sharon Kerwick: "I'm doing this professionally and ethically so that you can be treated fairly."

Sharon Kerwick is a well-known, well respected expert on antiques and residential properties. She agreed to appraise Janice's pieces for us, for free.

Sharon Kerwick: "There's eight different marks put on Hummels, the eight being put on now. You have a piece that is very early, from the 1940s."

Sharon put together a 110-page report of her findings, with a price for each piece based on several categories, like this one that had been damaged years ago.

Sharon Kerwick: "Someone would give you $10 dollars for it, as opposed to the next piece. You called it 'Signs of Spring' and it has a $500 price on it."

Sharon determined the 15 pieces were worth $1,285. Janice was impressed.

Janice Bauer: "I am amazed by her report, I am absolutely amazed. The amount of detail and effort is phenomenal that you went into."

Sharon says everyone who has any items in their home that they think are valuable should have them appraised before disaster strikes, or at least document the items.

Sharon Kerwick: "There is a handout in my website that shows how you can go clockwise around the room starting at the door, take all the rooms. It takes one hour."

If you want to list what valuable you have, maybe even do some research and find out what they are worth, the way to do it is on Sharon's website. You may find the link at the bottom of this Help Me Howard.

As for Janice, the insurance company has the appraisal and the adjuster is reviewing Sharon's report. They will have final decision in a couple of days, but they are now only $400 dollars apart, so it should be easy. In fact, a manager at the insurance company told me, "We'll do the right thing. We will get this settled."

Don't have hummels but have been humbled? Don't get crushed and crumble. Appraise us of the situation. No one would ever make figurines out of us, but we will figure out a way to put the pieces back together for you.

With this Help Me Howard, I'm Patrick Fraser, 7News.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Sharon Kerwick
KERWICK APPRAISALS
http://www.kerwick.com
(954) 565-9031

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:

E-mail: helpmehoward@wsvn.com (please include your contact phone number when e-mailing)
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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