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Business owner puts up giant sign after insurance won't cover derecho damage

Joel Thys' insurance company told him they would not pay for repairs, so he filed a state and now federal lawsuit.

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It's been three months since the derecho wiped out billions of dollars in property, trees and crops across Iowa and the Midwest.

Des Moines is just about finished cleaning up its derecho damage, but the story is much different in the small town of Toledo.

The August derecho has been called one of the biggest thunderstorms in United States history. It hit hundreds of towns including Toledo, which is northeast of Des Moines.

"I've helped clean up after a few tornadoes over the years, but nothing like this where everywhere you look for miles and miles is complete devastation," Joel Thys said.

Thys, a Chevrolet dealership owner, had his business nearly destroyed by the storm. The building is torn to pieces, but that was only the start of his troubles. His insurance company, Federated Insurance, told him they would not pay for repairs. So he filed a state and now federal lawsuit that demands Federated pay $932,000.

Then, he put up a billboard-sized sign to make sure everyone driving by knows what happened.

"Why should it take me putting up a sign to make them do what's right?" Thys said. "I get several phone calls every day since I put it up, and it's people saying, 'Yup,' you know, saying, 'My insurance company is doing that to me too. Good for you.'"

Court records show the insurance company denies they should pay damages. They said Thys specifically instructed Federated to remove the subject property from the schedule of insured properties effective June 1, 2020. Thys disputes that. Now it's up to a federal judge and jury.

Sister station KCCI contacted Federated Insurance in Minnesota. They said because there is pending litigation they can't go into too much detail. But they can say they are reaching out to Thys to come to some kind of resolution.