[JURIST] The first federal trial relating to insurance coverage for property damage caused by Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive] begins Monday in Gulfport, Mississippi. In the lawsuit [complaint, PDF] against Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company [corporate website], a Mississippi homeowner is disputing the insurance company's decision not to cover his property damage claim. Nationwide denied the claim because it contends the damage was caused by water; the homeowners assert that Katrina's wind caused the damage.
Though the case will not be binding in other lawsuits, it will set the stage for future cases against insurance companies in the wake of Katrina. Richard "Dickie" Scruggs [PBS profile], the attorney representing the homeowners in the present case, said that if the plaintiffs win this case and several similar lawsuits, insurance companies will likely begin to settle the thousands of pending cases. Scruggs represents about 3,000 families throughout Mississippi's Gulf Coast in their Katrina-related lawsuits. Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood [official website] has also filed a class-action [press release, PDF] lawsuit in Mississippi state court. Hood has asked the court:
to declare that certain insurance contract provisions are void and unenforceable as the same are contrary to public policy, are unconscionable, and are ambiguous. The provisions at issue attempt to exclude from coverage loss or damage caused directly or indirectly by water, whether or not driven by wind.AP has more.