California Wildfire Victims Question Insurance Companies

Don Robinson says his Residence Mutual insurance policy pegged the cost of replacing his San Diego home at $233,000. After Southern California's wildfires destroyed the 40-year-old biologist's four-bedroom house last year, a contractor told him it would...

Robinson, the San Diego biologist, concedes that he upgraded his kitchen after his last policy renewal in July 2003 but says that wouldn't explain why his policy was so inadequate. He is rebuilding his home pretty much as it was, though he plans to take out a low-interest government loan and get by fewer closets and no piano.

Robinson watched in disbelief at a homeowner meeting in May as Kehrer demonstrated the Marshall & Swift software exposed a discrepancy of more than $200,000 between the quick survey and the more detailed questionnaire, which took into account hardwood floors and other details.

``I was just dumbfounded,'' he said.