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State Farm agrees to settle Katrina lawsuits

[JURIST] State Farm [corporate website] insurance company reached a settlement Tuesday with hundreds of Mississippi policyholders whose claims were denied after Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive], bringing an end to a trial that began [JURIST report] January 9 in the US District for the Southern District of Mississippi [official website]. The agreement between State Farm and Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood [official website] will award $80 million to the more than 600 named homeowners who filed the lawsuit. Hood, who compared negotiations [press conference audio] to "a death roll with an alligator for the last two months," said the settlement also provides for an additional $50 million for thousands of other homeowners in Mississippi who did not sue State Farm after their claims were denied. That $50 million figure however, is just a minimum and could easily reach hundreds of millions, depending on the number of applicants.

Tuesday's settlement only applies to Mississippi litigants and State Farm as additional lawsuits against insurance companies still are pending in other states affected by the Katrina disaster. The settlement does, however, end Hood's investigation into allegations of fraudulent claim denials by State Farm, including allegations the company pressured its engineers to doctor their reports. In Mississippi, Hood also has also brought action against other insurance companies including Allstate and Nationwide [corporate websites]. The Houston Chronicle has more.

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