Mediators working to get Katrina insurance suits settled

Published 6:49 pm Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Court records show 537 Hurricane Katrina lawsuits against insurance companies are still pending, about half the number that were awaiting federal court action at the beginning of the year.

Early on, U.S. District Court Judge L.T. Senter Jr. made it clear that he wanted attorneys to seek prompt and fair resolution of cases. Senter also ordered some cases into mediation.

Gulfport attorney Raymond Hunter has been working for eight years as a mediator, a neutral party who helps two sides reach an agreement.

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Hunter said Senter’s decisions in cases that went to trial have offered guidance for policyholders and insurance companies in mediation.

“Mediation has brought about the most equitable, fair resolution for the parties that I have seen,” Hunter said. “The vast majority of (insurance) carriers I see on a regular basis are making a reasonable effort to adjust these claims.”

Katrina struck nearly two years ago, on Aug. 29, 2005.

As of July 27, Senter had ordered 174 cases into mediation, with 84 of them — or 49 percent — settled.

Some cases have been settled without court orders.

The Scruggs Katrina Group, which represents most policyholder cases, has settled about 1,200. Hundreds of those had been filed as individual lawsuits, but two cases had hundreds of policyholders who sued as groups.

Officials said 3,034 cases have been settled through mediation sponsored by the Mississippi Department of Insurance. Department of Insurance spokeswoman Donna Cromeans said 3,687 policyholder claims have been mediated through the program.