Another Story On Judge Senter’s Hearing Wednesday

I was looking earlier for Associated Press reporter Michael Kunzelman’s story on Wednesday’s hearing in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, but in my haste I didn’t find it before I posted yesterday.  Today I saw it in the Insurance Journal.  Kunzelman has done perhaps the best, most consistently good and most balanced reporting on the Katrina insurance cases, and this story continues that good work.   As a former reporter myself, I like his work and wanted to pass it along to you.  The cases involved are Guice v. State Farm and Woullard v. State Farm.

5 Comments

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5 Responses to Another Story On Judge Senter’s Hearing Wednesday

  1. Scott S

    There is an interesting article in the Sun Herald today which has an interview with David Maurstad, head of the NFIP. Some of the more interesting points are that he believes all claims paid by the NFIP were legitimate, and were not incorrectly passed on by the insurance companies, and also that the NFIP had to borrow $20.8 billion from the US Treasury, and that it will be close to impossible to ever pay that back.

  2. Scott, thanks for the tip, I’ve now read that story and I’ll be posting on it and the issue of the wind/flood payments tomorrow.

  3. Jimmy

    Although I greatly enjoy reading your 10,000 foot view of the Katrina-State Farm issue I do believe you are blind to one critical issue. If you are not blind to it then you are simply ignoring it. This issue is the integrity or lack of integrity of the engineering reports performed by the companies hired by State Farm. I’m speaking from first hand knowledge as I’m one of the “slab” homeowners. Now here is the “evidence” used to deny my claim in full.
    1. A very tight view photo of what remained of my garage area and an explanation of how it showed my home’s east wall had fallen “inward” or to the west as a result of the force form the surge. Now what’s the problem with this explanation, it’s simply a tight picture of debri, any wide angle picture does show that virtuall every brick on my east wall fell outward or to the east and some bricks were over 20 ft from the slab (seems bricks can float in Katrina surge).
    2. Another thight framed picture of my home slab was presented as demonstrating how my southern wall fell “inward” or to the north as a result of the surge. Again what’s the problem, any wide angle picture shows that the again virtually every southern wall brick fell outward, some as far as 25+ feet from the home. Again floating bricks.
    3. A huge tree lying on my daughter’s swingset in the exact spot that it was prior to the storm. Humm, this was simply ignored as surely the surge would have moved a swingset that was not secured to the ground if the tree had not fallen prior to the water arriving.
    4. A large tree lying across my slab where my masterbed room was, under this tree was my bedroom window, curtains, felt roof paper, and parts of the house. Additionally the brick cladding was lying to the west in long segments but broken in a straight line with the tree. Now how does the quality report handle this. Why the brick cladding was not broken in line with the tree and the tree simply washed up there as part of the surge. Humm pictures clearly show the cladding broken in line with the tree but I guess pictures are not accurate, plus no place else on the slab contained ANY personal or home building material as was found under the tree.
    5. My alarm system was active up until about 0830 and even with all windows and doors “boarded’ up, showed numerous reports of “intrusions” until apparently the phone connection was lost. Now how did the report handle this, well let’s see, it didnt, just basically ignored it as if it didnt exist.
    5. The bolts left protuding up from the slab were twisted in all different directions with some that were adjacent to each other being twised in opposite directions. Now how did the report deal with this issue, why it simply stated that there were no damage to these bolts. Again pictures lie, no wait simply leaving these pictures out supports a lie.
    6. In my report supporting pictures were attached which showed damage to houses immediately north of mine and explained how this damage indicated all my damage was from surge. Good point you would probably say, now the only problem is these pictures were not of any houses in my neighborhood and difinately not immediately north of my home.
    Oh by the way, my site inspector was working on his 13th day of home inspection experience and knew vitually nothing of home construction. I had to explain to him what type of roof I had for he hand no idea what a hip roof was. Additionally I had to take him to a house to show him what the electrical mask was because he was clueless (the electrical mask was entangled with the tree lying on my slab). Quality inspector indeed.
    I point all this out because too often the arguement is viewed strictly from the leagal perspective or points and no views of what actually happened on the ground in MS post Katrina. I for one refuse to accept the 100% claim denial based on an obvious bogus engineering report. Additionally why should the people who did not even receive a report, bogus or not simply bow to State Farm and say oh your right, we are entitled to nothing. I think this explains my MS residents aren’t going quietly, do you and/or the Wall Street Journal simply expect us to be quiet and take it. I have wiated over 18 months trying to get State Farm to reconsider my claim and all I get is “no new information” back as a response to my inquiries. Well come this month I will authorize a lawyer to file suit against State Farm and if I have my way against the engineering company which produced such a erronoues report. I guess I’m one of those people who can not spell “contract” or maybe I’m one of the thousands of people in MS who surprised State Farm by being able to spell it.

  4. Jimmy, I appreciate your reading my posts and I wish to express my sympathies for all you have been through and for the loss of your home. What a terrible experience.
    Regarding the subject of your comments, I see several allusions, the first being to Pres. Bush cruising over the destruction at 10,000 feet. I’m not sure the comparison of me to Bush is completely apt — I graduated with honors from both college and law school — but I understand and accept your point that one who is not on the ground cannot know what the destruction was like.
    The other allusion is to a Wall Street Journal editorial, or at least a piece by one of the Journal’s editorial writers, I can’t remember which, asking why people in Mississippi cannot spell C-O-N-T-R-A-C-T. I certainly do not agree with everything the WSJ editorial page says, and my focus, unlike theirs, is not on an ideological or partisan component but on insurance coverage law, which I know a lot about and certainly care a lot more about than politics. Although to one like you who suffered great loss this may seem aloof or even ignorant, I am not being blind to the engineering reports so much as recognizing that I don’t have information that would enable me to sort out the truth. Your account is very valuable and is quite persuasive, but I myself am not an engineer and would have no idea how to interpret what you just said in isolation. The information you give raises questions, and I am open to the possibility that State Farm’s engineering reports were flawed or wrong. It would not be the first time a policyholder’s lawyer found an effective line of attack by pointing out that each decision made by an insurer was the one that would result in no payment.
    I suppose I could comb through the dockets of all the cases that were or are in federal court and compare the expert reports of each side, and this would give me the competing viewpoints in individual cases, but from what I have seen of these expert reports so far, it does not leave me in a better position to judge whether State Farm had a flawed process overall. If a plaintiff’s lawyer can’t come up with a competing expert version of what happened, he or she isn’t much of a plaintiff’s lawyer, so there are always two sides. Also, my time is limited. I have a full-time practice and then some, plus I write this blog on my own time as well as do scholarly research and writing after and before work hours. So my ability to perform my own investigations must take place within those parameters. When people send me information, however, I do check it out as time allows.
    Some readers have asked me whether State Farm’s settlement of hundreds of cases is an acknowledgement that they know the engineers’ reports were badly done or wrong. I would be surprised if State Farm sees it that way, and only the Scruggs cases were settled in any event. Many other cases remain out there.
    I do not suggest that people should merely accept State Farm’s word for it, nor that policyholders should not sue if that is what they feel is right to do. You undoubtedly know much more than I do about the specifics of your case and probably the methods of the State Farm claims adjustment protocols than I do, and it is through information like yours that I learn, which is my goal. I assure you that I do not remain intentionally blind to information on either side. I hope this gives some perspective as to why I have not spoken more about the engineering reports. I will try to educate myself more about these issues. Again, thanks for your comment and insight.

  5. jimmy

    David
    I appreciate the response you provided to my previous entry, in no way was I comparing you to President Bush in reference to the 10,000 foot view comment. My intent of the entry was to demonstrate how State Farm’s arrogance in the way they deal with each individual is the real issue here. State Farm is more then willing to discuss the issue as a whole but not the specifics which is were the problem is at. According to State Farm and their stated % of settled vs unsettled claims I do not even exist because I was denied totally. Talk about twisting numbers to make yourself look better but boy do their spokespersons love to throw out that high 90% number.
    I get frustrated when I see the articles depicting Katrina victims as being greedy and money hungry because these articles ignore the fact not all insurance companies conducted themselves in an honorable manner. In fact I think in slab cases only a few did and certainly not State Farm.
    The articles about how the greedy Katrina victims of MS will run the insurance companies out of the state. The flip side of this argument is to keep the insurance companies then we should not insist on them paying what they owe during a big disaster. Seems to me like I was paying insurance for nothing, am I any worst off if I can’t get insurance because companies were forced to pay after Katrina.
    I guess I’m most frustrated because I have seen first hand the “bad faith” produced by State Farm and its engineering report system, a continuance of previous behavior from the OK tornado disaster yet some of the larger media outlets want to portray State Farm as the victim. In my view the $1 million punitive damage awarded by the judge was to little, yet all you hear is how MS courts are against State Farm.
    I do enjoy reading your legal expertise comments on the Katrina related rulings because I like to look behind the headlines and see how experts in the legal field view the rulings. Whether they are viewed as sound or not along with your evaluation of the motions filed in the cases. I greatly appreciate and have learned numerous legal issue points surrounding the Katrina insurance cases.
    I do have one question for you, in reading a point paper that State Farm released in regards to their issue with the first case where they were subjected to the “directed” verdict, I noticed that State Farm did not challenge the legal issue of having to pay full structure damage as a result of it being a slab case. I mean they were all over other issues such as the having to pay the contents limits, bias jury, the judge not allowing the case to go to trial but there was no mention of challenging the structure limits of the ruling. Do you think they are willing to concede this argument in an attempt to not dilute their appeal of the other issues? It just stood out to me that they did not mention or challenge the structure limits.
    PS
    Sorry for the misspelling in my last post, after looking back at it I had to laugh and say I guess I am truly a Mississippian, lol.