Miss. couple files appeals in Katrina case

Published 12:08 am Friday, January 9, 2009

A federal appeals court has scheduled arguments for Feb. 4 in a Mississippi homeowner’s appeal involving a Hurricane Katrina damage case.

David and Marilyn Aikens filed an appeal of a ruling by U.S. District Judge L.T. Senter Jr., who dismissed a Houston, Texas engineering firm, Rimkus Consulting Group Inc., as a defendant in the couple’s lawsuit over its damage claim.

Senter ruled last January that the Aikens failed to show that Rimkus acted with gross negligence or malice.

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In their lawsuit, the Aikens say a Rimkus engineer initially concluded Katrina’s winds were strong enough to destroy the home — a “very favorable” finding for the homeowners, but the couple claims a Rimkus team leader later revised the engineer’s report to “mollify the language,” so their claim could be denied by USAA Casualty Insurance Co.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments in New Orleans in the couple’s appeal of the ruling.

A federal jury in Gulfport last January ordered USAA to pay an additional $64,000 to the Aikens for wind damage to their Pass Christian home and its contents during the Aug. 29, 2005, hurricane.

The amount was only a fraction of the maximum $427,087 that jurors could have awarded to the Aikens for wind coverage under their USAA homeowner policy.

USAA already has paid the couple $178,204 for wind damage under their homeowner policy, which had total coverage limits of $582,750 for the dwelling and its contents. The couple also had a separate, federally subsidized flood policy that paid them $278,000.

The Aikens are not appealing that verdict.