Attorney wants document related to Katrina settlement

Published 11:00 pm Saturday, April 21, 2007

An attorney suing State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. on behalf of Hurricane Katrina victims wants to see the agreement that state Insurance Commissioner George Dale and the company reached that calls for re-evaluation of claims on the coast.

The letter from Batesville attorney Richard “Flip” Phillips requests a copy of the agreement between Dale and State Farm, plus any documents produced during negotiations or as part of the agreement.

Under public records laws, Dale has 14 days to respond to the request.

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Phillips also asks a number of questions in the eight-page letter, including whether State Farm will follow a federal court ruling that says the company must pay for damage unless it can prove the loss was caused by water. State Farm disagrees with the decision, which it is appealing.

The wind-versus-water issue has been contentious in the wake of the Aug, 29, 2005 storm. Insurance companies say their policies don’t cover flood damage, including wind-driven water or storm surge.

State Farm representatives had not yet received Phillips letter, and could not respond to its contents.

“This seems to be another case where the trial bar is basically looking to write your story for you,” Fraser Engerman told a reporter Friday, referring to attorneys such as Phillips who are suing State Farm on behalf of policyholders. “And you can quote me on that.”

Dale’s office said the letter will be reviewed and answered.

State Farm has maintained that it owes nothing unless wind damage can be separated from water damage, especially in cases in which homes were reduced to the foundation.

“State Farm’s intentional mishandling of the slab cases has been the elephant in the living room from day one in the post-Katrina insurance debacle,” Phillips said.