3 On Your Side: Storm victim petitioning White House - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

3 On Your Side: Storm victim petitioning White House

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ROSSVILLE, GA. (WRCB) -- Since this summer Channel 3 has been following the story of a Rossville homeowner whose house was destroyed when Tropical Storm Lee ripped through the area last year.

It's been 15 months since a falling oak tree destroyed her home. And while we have been able to help get her insurance money for repairs, more than a year later she's hit another brick wall.

Since we last visited Shearon Gass about a month ago, there has been a lot of work done on her home.

Channel 3 was by her side when her insurance company and bank refused to write a check more than a year after a tree destroyed her home.

With our help the first check worth about $42,000 was written without incident. But just as Gass was about to receive her last check worth $63,000, she hit another wall.

"For whatever reason on this one now, because of the economy being the way that it is and property values being what they are, the amount of damage done to the home, she's trying to lay claim to that check," Gass says. 

She's referring to the Chapter 13 Bankruptcy trustee in Atlanta.

In 2009, Gass filed for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, but says she's never missed a payment and it's scheduled to be paid off this year.

But now she fears she may not have a home or anything to call her own.

"It's soul-breaking," Gass says. "It's been so horrible, without my faith I just would not have made it. There's absolutely no way I could've made it through."

"The Chapter 13 is a very powerful program that protects people who care about keeping things," says Eron Epstein.

Eron Epstein is a bankruptcy attorney in Chattanooga. He says a bankruptcy trustee may be required to sign off on an insurance settlement.

"It shouldn't be something that slows the process down more than a day," Epstein says.

But in Gass' case it has. Epstein says he's seen this happen before.

"A number of motions were filed by debtor's attorneys and the court ruled in every case that we're aware of, that that was not an adequate defense to paying the debtor," Epstein says. "That they were entitled to the proceeds and they couldn't be discriminated against on the basis of being in default on the mortgage payments."

Gass is reaching out to the highest level of government, the president.

She's started a petition to allow disaster victims to rebuild without bankruptcy courts or lenders being allowed to take insurance funds.

"It may be too late to help me, but it's not too late to help them," Gass says.

She's talking about storm victims along the East Coast who felt the wrath of Superstorm Sandy.

"With the people that are going through this now with Sandy, they have no idea what's fixing to happen to them," Gass says.

If enough people sign the petition, an emergency legislation will allow the funds to be used for rebuilding.

Gass needs a minimum 25,000 signatures by Christmas Day, before the White House will issue a response.

Click here to see the petition.

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