GULFPORT (WLOX) -- A Gulfport couple is among the hundreds of Mississippi homeowners sent scrambling to find new attorneys this week.
On Friday, a federal judge disqualified lawyers who had worked with attorney Dickie Scruggs on Katrina insurance lawsuits. The judge said Scruggs made improper payments to witnesses in Katrina cases. But Ann and Eddie Collins say the policy holders are the ones being punished.
The Collins say their Landon Road home had more than $139,000 in hurricane damage. State Farm paid them $30,000.
"We actually started trying to build or started trying to repair our home and it was just obviously was not enough," said Ann Collins.
The Gulfport couple filed suit in April 2006 and hired Dickie Scruggs and his Katrina legal group. After Scruggs was indicted on bribery charges last year, the remaining attorneys restructured as the Katrina Litigation group. Over the weekend, the Collins found out from news reports that the lawyers who'd represented them for two years had been disqualified.
Ann Collins said, "I was shocked. It's just like the bottom fell out. "
The Collins received a letter on Tuesday indicating they had 45 days to find a new attorney or possibly have their case dismissed without prejudice. The letter explained, "You could later file your case again, but only within the three year statute of limitations which may expire as soon as August 28th, 2008."
"I'm not saying that it's totally unfair to correct a wrong, but I am saying consider all the people that are involved in party," said Collins. "We were left cold. We hadn't done anything wrong, so we're just left out. We're paying the price for something we didn't do."
Worried they may never get their day in court, the couple searched for another attorney to take their case.
"Just to let it go to me that would have been a victory for the insurance company," Eddie Collins said. "That would have been a big victory for them because that's one less they have to worry about."
The Collins say they called ten law firms before they found an attorney who would take their case. Their attorney says the couple won't have to re-file and the case should go to federal court on October 8th.