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Cost Dispute Leaves Bus-Battered House Unrepaired

Times Staff Writer

A bus careened into Edith Oseransky’s home in the middle of a poker game. But it didn’t turn her into a gambler.

Instead, the Northridge woman has shivered through more than two months of cold and rain entering through a gigantic hole in the side of her house rather than risk a repair job she doesn’t trust.

Oseransky and her family have been at odds with their insurance company over restoration of their Vanalden Avenue house since a Southern California Rapid Transit District bus plowed into it Oct. 19 while seven women were playing poker around the kitchen table. The bus smashed walls, roof and floor. There were no serious injuries.

State Farm Insurance Co., which insured the home and will pay for repairs until reimbursed by RTD insurance, believes that the repairs will cost $12,900. The Oseranskys say contractors they have talked to say the house cannot be fixed for less than $18,900.

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Both sides agree that until outside appraisers and an umpire are hired to help referee the dispute this month, the hole will remain. Plywood security panels have been installed inside the house to seal out intruders, but wind and rain whip through.

‘Dust is Constant’

“I stay in the kitchen with sweaters on to keep out the wind,” said Edith Oseransky, 49. “But it’s not the cold as much as the mess. That’s so frustrating. The dust is constant. I have constantly dirty floors and furniture.”

There are other reminders of the crash, too.

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Oseransky’s husband, Bernie, has moved his clothes onto temporary racks in the middle of the living room because the bus knocked a hole in his closet wall.

Their 23-year-old son, Tom, has moved into a hotel because his bed was crushed and his bedroom was demolished.

The insurance company is picking up the hotel tab, which so far totals more than $5,000.

“That makes no sense,” said Bernie Oseransky, 55. “If they’d spent that money on the repairs to begin with, we wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in.”

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State Farm officials say they are also distressed by the delay. But they blame it on the Oseranskys.

Insurance agent Al Kremer, who stopped at the crash scene minutes after the bus struck the house, said the repair work could have begun within hours of the accident.

“State Farm only deals with top-notch contractors,” Kremer said. “I’ve known Bernie and Edith for a long time. I consider them good friends as well as customers. I wish they’d gone ahead and gotten the refurbishing started the next day.”

A company spokesman at State Farm’s headquarters in Bloomington, Ill., said the Oseransky case is unique because few homes get hit by buses--and few homeowners delay repair work once a settlement is offered.

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“I sympathize with somebody going through this the first time,” spokesman Jim Stahly said. “But we do it hundreds of times a day, day in and day out. We’re very comfortable with our estimate. We have a lot of experience with this sort of thing.

Types of Coverages

Stahly said the insurance money spent on Tom Oseransky’s hotel bill could not have been channeled into the repairs because different types of coverages are involved. “We can’t play expenses back and forth against one another,” he said.

But Stahly acknowledged that the insurance company will be out of the picture once repairs are completed. That means it would be up to the Oseranskys to fight it out with the contractor if shoddy workmanship causes structural or leakage problems to the $275,000 house in years to come.

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That worries Edith Oseransky. She said the low-bidding contractors, who estimated damage at $7,900, didn’t even lift the rain-soaked carpeting in her son’s bedroom to discover that the weight of the 11 1/2-ton bus cracked the house’s concrete slab.

She also said the family has decided to pay for “a concrete blockade like they have at the White House to keep out terrorists,” in the hope it will keep vehicles from smashing into their house in the future. The installation will not be covered by insurance.

“Living like this is awful,” she said. “It’s like not living in a house here now.”

In his hotel room, Tom Oseransky said the same thing.

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“This is getting real inconvenient,” he said. “I’m ready for a vacation. And not in a hotel. I’ll rent a house.”


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