Judge Denies Punitive; Couple Settles With State Farm - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Judge Denies Punitive; Couple Settles With State Farm

Same attorneys, but a different outcome in the latest State Farm lawsuit to head to federal court. On Tuesday, Michael and Michelle Williams settled with the insurance company for an undisclosed amount. 

The Williams live in Colorado and had a rental home in Jackson County. They're represented by Jack Denton and Bill Walker, the same attorneys who, back in January, won millions for Norman and Genevieve Broussard in their suit against State Farm.

Michael and Michelle Williams took State Farm to court after the company refused to pay a $46,000 dollar policy citing the water exclusion. The couple sued for the policy limits plus $5 million in punitive damages.

After two days of testimony, Judge Peter Beer decided the jury should not consider punitive damages.  

"I did not conclude under applicable law of Mississippi that this is a case I should submit on punitive damages. I should submit whether the claim or part of the claim should be settled," Judge Beer said.

The Williams' attorney said while he was disappointed punitive damages weren't considered, he respected the judge's ruling.

"Once he made that decision, the parties were able to get together and reach a settlement," said attorney Jack Denton. "That settlement was presented to the Williams and the Williams agreed to that settlement, so we were able to get the case resolved."

Michelle Williams said, "Well I can't disclose what we talked about in there and any of the details, but all I will say is we feel like we won a moral victory today."

The Williams' attorney says he's not surprised this case turned out differently. Jack Denton says the facts were different.

The Broussards had only a slab with nothing for insurance adjustors to examine. The Williams' house was destroyed, but parts of the structure were still on the property.

State Farm attorneys say their major concern was punitive damages. Once that aspect was eliminated, they were more than willing to work things out.

John Banahan, an attorney for State Farm Attorney, said, "It's something that needed to be done and I think both sides are pleased with the outcome."

The Williams' case is the latest Katrina lawsuit for attorneys Bill Walker and Jack Denton to argue against State Farm, but not the last. The pair say they have three more cases headed to court this month, one of which is slated to start on Monday.

Denton and Walker are hoping for more settlements, but they're not optimistic.

"Obviously, it's in everybody's best interest to get cases resolved as quick as possible and the quickest way to resolve a case is to get it settled," said Denton. "I think both sides of this issue at some point would like to reach a point where we can resolve them without having to try each case, but I don't think we're there yet."

John Banahan says State Farm was happy with the agreement with the Williams and its goal is to settle as many cases against the company as it can.  The Williams left the courthouse satisfied their long battle with State Farm is now over.

by Danielle Thomas    

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