Friday, March 16, 2007

Post-Katrina Insurance Wars

From a N.Y. Times article about Richard Scruggs, the nemesis of the insurance industry:

Insurers note that they have paid $41 billion for damage from Katrina, including $5.5 billion for homes in Mississippi. The insurers add that only 1 percent of their customers have taken them to court, but that amounts to more than 2,000 lawsuits in Mississippi and many more in New Orleans and elsewhere in Louisiana that are being dealt with separately.

For months after the hurricane hit on Aug. 29, 2005, the insurance dispute in Mississippi was stalled. But in mid-January a Biloxi couple won a $1 million verdict against State Farm, the largest home insurer in the nation and in Mississippi.

Less than two weeks later, Mr. Scruggs completed negotiations on settlements with State Farm worth at least $130 million, setting the pattern, many insurance experts said, for resolving hundreds of other cases and potentially providing hundreds of millions of dollars for rebuilding along the coast.

The photo to the right is of Scruggs, standing next to the remains of one client's house. For a good discussion of the "wind versus water" issue that underlies the suits, you might want to start with this research paper by Seema Patel and Sarala Nagala.


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