Democracy Now (8/18/06)
Drew Landry and the Dirty Cajuns, "Category 5."
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This edition of Community Gumbo will repeat last week's features
about homeowners fighting their insurance companies to have their claims settled.
The one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is just a week away. Despite the passage of time, many houses damaged by hurricane-force winds or floodwater look the same as they did the day after Hurricane Katrina destroyed them. Homeowners are frustrated that their insurance providers aren't honoring the policies which homeowners have faithfully paid into for years. The only option remaining to those homeowners so that they don't become victims again is to sue their insurance providers. (See Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon's comments below for an update).
If a homeowner's insurance provider hasn't voluntarily agreed to extend the deadline to file a lawsuit against them for unsettled claims, they should file a lawsuit against their insurance provider by the August 28th deadline for Katrina claims, and September 23rd for Rita claims.
Attorneys Gregory Johnson and Bradley Elizabeth Black (interview below) recommend that homeowners get a piece of paper in hand from their insurance companies written in plain English stating that the right to file a lawsuit has been extended beyond a year. Homeowners who don't file lawsuits should pay close attention to any court challenges to Louisiana Act 802 of the 2006 Regular Session which extended the period during which lawsuits can be filed. If an insurance provider hasn't extended the deadline to file a lawsuit, Johnson and Black recommend that homeowners file lawsuits to protect themselves. Homeowners can always withdraw a lawsuit. Those who don't file lawsuits may open themselves up to losing any right to insurance compensation for damages. Michael Homan and Therese Fitzpatrick, Mid City
Mid-City residents Michael Homan and Therese Fitzpatrick found that Allstate hired an engineering firm to argue in favor of the insurance provider. Haag Engineering wrote a report stating that the damage to their home wasn't caused by wind or flood, but that the racked condition of the house existed before Hurricane Katrina. The house now leans about 4 inches for every 7 1/2 feet of vertical height.
Fred McDowell, "Fred's Worried Life Blues," The Rough Guide to Bottleneck Blues. Lisa Palumbo, Uptown
Lisa Palumbo is filing to sue State Farm for exactly the same type of case Michael Homan and Therese Fitzpatrick are fighting. Her house is racked, and the roof is damaged. Every time it rains, water drains into the ceiling and walls. State Farm can't decide whether to call the damage wind or flood, but appears to be trying to cherry-pick the evidence to squeeze somewhere in between the two.Esther Sparks & the Protesters, "On My Side." Gregory Johnson, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services
Just a week ago, Lisa received yet another engineering report. This time, among the evidence engineers presented against wind damage was a map showing that winds weren't strong enough in New Orleans, but the map shows the eye of Hurricane Katrina was still far off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico.
Gregory Johnson is an attorney at Southeast Legal Services, a pro bono legal project providing free legal services to the low-income community since 1979. Bradley Elizabeth Black, Katrina Staff Attorney at the Loyola Law Clinic
Southeast Louisiana Legal Services has posted information and forms on LawHelp.org to help homeowners file a lawsuit against their insurance providers.
Bradley Elizabeth Black is the Katrina Staff Attorney at the Loyola Law Clinic. The clinic may not be able to take on new cases for a few weeks, but it is still dispensing legal advice, and is distributing information packets to help homeowners file their lawsuits against their companies by the August 28th deadline for Katrina claims, September 23rd for Rita claims. Related:
The Loyola Law Clinic is on the third floor of the Loyola Law School, 526 Pine Street, Room 120, 861-5590 (ext. 2).
Insurance Journal -- "Insurers in Louisiana Agree to Extend Hurricane Lawsuit Deadline" (hat tip: Listener Bob)
Commissioner of Insurance Jim Donelon says nearly all of Louisiana's homeowners insurance companies, including State Farm and Allstate, have complied with his order to extend the prescriptive period for policyholders to file a lawsuit as result of a hurricane-related insurance claim. ...
Most insurers have agreed to the extra year. Some will extend the prescriptive period to two years but are reserving the limited right to give the Department 30 or 60 days written notice to rescind the stipulation, but only if a court determines that Act 802 of the 2006 Regular Session is unconstitutional.
Commissioner Donelon notes that until there is a final court decision, all hurricane claimants whose companies have filed a stipulation are now fully protected because of his directive.
Louisiana Department of Insurance
Helpful phone numbers:
Louisiana Bar Association attorney referral service: 504-561-8828
New Orleans Pro Bono Project: 504-581-4043
New Orleans Legal Assistance Center: 504-529-1000
WWL Audio on Demand -- Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon comments on State Farm agreeing to extended period for suing the company (audio, 8/11/06)
8/12/2006 Community Gumbo -- photos