Katrina Slab Case Testimony Starts With Tears

Emotions and contradictions marked the first day of testimony in the Hurricane Katrina slab case. Norman and Genevieve Broussard are suing State Farm Insurance in federal court for denying the claim on the Biloxi home. State Farm contends water destroyed the house, which was not covered in the policy.

In opening arguments, the Broussards' attorney Bill Walker told the jury he intended to prove that State Farm breached its contract, and after Katrina the company came up with its wind/water protocol so it could deny slab claims.

State Farm's attorneys then told jurors the company's position was simple. Wind was covered. Water or surge, whether wind driven or not, was not covered.

Norman Broussard was the first to take the stand. During his testimony,  he broke down in tears while trying to describe finding a slab where their West Biloxi home once stood. Judge L.T. Senter, Jr. then ordered a short recess to give Broussard time to regain his composure.

When testimony resumed, Broussard said he did not have flood insurance. He, and later his wife Genevieve, testified they got three feet of water in their house during Camille, and little to no wind damage in Camille and later hurricanes. Both said they believe a tornado took their house on Brady Drive.

However, the couple's expert witness, a structural engineer, admitted under cross examination he found no evidence of a tornado. He said he'd done analysis based on interviews with hurricane witnesses, data collected by NOAA, and information from other sources. He concluded the wind gusts were strong enough and lasted long enough to destroy the home before the water got there.

The Broussards had more than $200,000 in insurance with State Farm. State Farm denied the claim saying water, not wind destroyed the home.

On the stand company executive Terry Blalock conceded there was probably some wind damage to the Broussards' home before the surge, but it was impossible to tell how much damage the wind did before the water arrived. Blalock said State Farm would rely on the jury to make that determination in this case.

The trial resumes Wednesday at 10 a.m.