Xavier University v. Travelers / Chehardy v. Allstate

“The wise man listens to meaning; the fool only gets the noise.”
Poet C. P. Cavafy

“Favor distilled thinking, by which I mean the thinking based on information that is around us that is stripped of meaningless but diverting clutter. For the difference between noise and information has an analog: that between journalism and history.”
Nassim Nicholas Taleb in Fooled by Randomness

For whatever reason I was reminded of those quotes yesterday while reading the Jim Hood commentary in yesterday’s Clarion Ledger, the Folo Blog and David Rossmiller’s blog. Those that have actually read Taleb’s books understand he harbors a general disdain for “journalists” though the main object of his sarcastic wit in “Fooled” is George Will who is a commentator, rather than a journalist. All in the blogosphere are guilty of being Talebesque noise makers including your authors here at the Insurance Issues Forum. The trick is distilling the commentary, which task all three sources of noise I listed above failed miserably yesterday in my opinion.

So while much of the local blogosphere goes off chasing the Jim Hood br’er rabbit, some fresh off their unsuccessful chase of Billy McCoy, we will stick to our knitting of providing analysis of the insurance news which impacts so many coastal residents across this nation.

I saw this news item in today’s Sun Herald and thought it most worthy of mention, mainly because we will surprise some of our readers with our take. It deals with two court cases on appeal out of the New Orleans area related to Katrina and the Supreme Court shooting down the appeals of Xavier University.

The Supreme Court refused Tuesday to offer help to Hurricane Katrina victims who want their insurance companies to pay for flood damage to their homes and businesses.The justices rejected appeals from Xavier University and 68 other individuals and businesses seeking to allow their lawsuits against the insurers to go forward.

Xavier asked the court to step in after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the policies did not cover damage from floods, even those that resulted from man-made failures such as the collapsed levees in New Orleans.

Other cases working their way through state courts have so far reached differing conclusions. A Louisiana appeals court has said language excluding water damage from some insurance policies was ambiguous. The Louisiana Supreme Court will hear arguments in that case Feb. 26.

Xavier and the other plaintiffs had asked the federal court to allow the state Supreme Court to rule on their suits as well. The 5th Circuit refused and the U.S. high court upheld that ruling Tuesday.

While we are certainly sympathetic to the arguments of the dubious effect the Chamber of Commerce has exacted on our judiciary we agree with the Supreme Court’s ruling. The Flood Exclusion found in all private insurance policies is not ambiguous and these suits succeeded only in muddying the waters for all insurance litigation, much of which are far better grounded in insurance law. These Louisiana cases are not wind versus water; rather all the parties seem to agree flooding was the cause of damage. In our minds the obligations of insurers stop when excluded events are the clear cause of damage as is the case in these suits.

Finally we welcome Bellesouth, a real life example of the firehouse syndrome at work in the blogosphere. To their credit the Clarion Ledger has not banned Belle simply because she has a differing viewpoint though I am fairly certain Sid Salter would love to strangle her. Belle is new to the blogosphere and comes equipped with some strong opinions. We hope she will find the environment here conducive to learning the ropes and finer points of effective blogging.


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