State Settles Katrina Slab Lawsuit Against State Farm

By Danielle Thomas - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - It appears Mississippi's legal fight with State Farm is over. State Attorney General Jim Hood said he has signed off on a settlement deal Wednesday morning with the insurance company.

Hood says Mississippi filed a lawsuit against State Farm after the company refused to comply with a Hinds County court decision on how it should handle denied atrina slab claims. In March 2007, State Farm agreed to participate in a re-evaluation program in conjunction with the Mississippi Department of Insurance. The state attorney general said State Farm has done what it said it would.

Katrina damaged or destroyed tens of thousands of homes along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The state attorney general said 1,000 homeowners who were left with nothing but slabs or pilings were told by State Farm they weren't getting a dime.

"They were zeroed," said Hood. "They told them they were going to get zero. The result of our litigation is they've now paid $74 million additional dollars, because they had to go back and revaluate these claims."

Hood said in re-evaluating slab claims, State Farm was required by a state lawsuit to spend at least $50 million, and pay each homeowner at least half of the policy limits on structural damage. The company paid out $50 million plus an additional $24 million, and agreed to reach out to slab owners who had yet to sue or settle.

"State Farm will be sending to those 148 people, or claim policy holders, notices that they can come back in for another attempt to try to settle their claim," Hood said.

Slab owners who receive notices from State Farm will have to decide quickly whether or not they want to participate in the re-evaluation process. Hood said, as part of the settlement agreement, people will receive offers only if they get their paperwork back to State Farm by August 29th.

"State Farm and some of the insurance companies allege that the statute of limitations begins to run three years from the day of the event of the hurricane," said Hood. "The reason there's a short 30 day window for those 148 people is to get them to go ahead and settle their claims or decide what they're going to do."

A State Farm spokesperson had this to say of the attorney general's announcement.

"We find it perplexing that he is taking full credit for a program he opposed and was the basis of his lawsuit. Nonetheless, we are pleased he understands State Farm has met its obligation," Fraser Engerman said.

Meanwhile, the attorney general is recommending people consult an attorney before taking a settlement offer.