Fifteen months after Hurricane Katrina left gaping holes in the Gulf Coast landscape, many insurance claims remain unsettled and Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood is not happy.
He says he would be happier if some of the claims he is representing in a lawsuit against insurers would be settled out of court. He suggests insurers would be happier with that scenario as well, before his state courts and Congress get further involved.
“State Farm, Allstate, Nationwide, Farm Bureau, USAA, and Nationwide have caused many people on our coast to wait a year and three months for a decision on the validity of the water exclusionary clause,” Hood said. “I have been in discussions with several of these companies with the aim of trying to resolve these issues without the expense and time of litigation and I am hopeful that other companies will come forward and do what is right toward the policy holders.”
Now, with a federal judge’s decision remanding his case to state courts, Hood said he is ready for a fight if that is what the insurers want. “Thanks to Judge Senter, a second federal judge has agreed with me and told the insurance companies that they were wrong in trying to delay the case in federal court.”
He said he is ready to meet insurers before Judge Denise Sweet Owens in the Chancery Court of Hinds County as soon as she will hear the case.
According to Hood, Federal District Judge Senter has already ruled that the insurance companies’ anti-concurrent cause provisions are void.
“These sneaky companies have tried to use these provisions to even deny wind damage if any water touched the house,” Hood said. “This just shows how overreaching the insurance industry has become in using their ‘fine print.’”
He is pushing for Mississippi policyholders and insurance agents to contact their insurance companies and advise them to work with the state on a settlement that will help the affected coastal population.
“The state’s claim urges the court to prevent the insurance companies from refusing to pay for damage caused by storm surge,” Hood said. “Storm surge is one ofthe four known meteorological events from a hurricane, yet the insurance companies failed to include the words “storm surge” in the exclusionary clauses in their policies.”
Hood emphasized, “One universal law of contract interpretation and construction is that when the drafter of a contract names several specifically excluded perils, yet fails to name another then the contract is construed against the drafter – the insurance companies.”
Citing the recent Democratic takeover of Congress and “the most catastrophic event in history” as fuel for national insurance reform, Hood said the confluence has created the first chance America has had in decades to “review our national insurance policy.”
Hood believes that unless the insurance companies come forward and help forge a settlement quickly that the American people will “see through a Congressional investigation and the curtain will be peeled back on some of their antics our investigation has revealed on our Gulf Coast.”
As a result, Hood said he thinks that the American people will then demand national insurance reform and an American Insurance Bill of Rights.
“One way or the other, I think that we shall soon see some movement by or against the insurance companies to help our families and business on our coast.”
Source: Office of the Attorney General, State of Mississippi