Things get a tad busy this time of year and the lack of blogging time on mine and Nowdy’s part means there is insurance news we don’t cover. Fortunately our friend Sup brought up the policyholder bill of rights, a story I’ve been following but which fell on my B list because of severe time constraints. A story we have been following and in fact broke right here on Slabbed was the recent Grilletta decision at the 5th Circuit which was a major victory for policyholders. Thanks to Anita Lee I get to maximize my time and kill two birds with one stone as the legal points that gave policyholders protections against being jerked around by a bad faith insurer in Louisiana do not exist in Mississippi. Before I link the salient source docs in our archives let’s begin with Ms Lee’s excellent story on Grilletta:
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals handed a victory to Louisiana policyholders this week in a Katrina insurance case, but the ruling won’t benefit Mississippians because the state lacks a law requiring timely payment of claims.
In the Louisiana case of Grilletta v. Lexington Insurance Co., a trial judge levied a penalty equal to 25 percent of the undisputed amount paid for wind damage because the company failed to act on the claim within 30 days of receiving proof of the loss. In fact, the appellate ruling said, “Lexington arbitrarily sat on the claim for over two months” after an adjuster concluded wind had destroyed the house. Lexington then hired an engineering firm that blamed the loss on storm surge, excluded from coverage. The April 2006 report also noted wind damage.
In June 2006, Lexington sent the policyholder a $311,055.38 check for the wind damage.
A trial judge levied a 25 percent penalty on that amount for the arbitrary late payment. The judge rejected penalties for the additional amount awarded at trial, $248,325.42, reasoning there was a legitimate coverage dispute.
The appellate court ordered the judge to assess the 25 percent penalty on coverage awarded at trial, saying failure to make timely payment on a covered claim exposes the insurer to penalties on the entire claim.
Mississippians, hundreds of whom waited more than two years for Katrina payments, lack similar protection and are unlikely to get it from the current Legislature, say policyholder attorneys and state Sen. David Baria. Baria is sponsoring a bill that mandates timely payment of claims.
“I believe that would get the insurance companies’ attention as far as treating policyholders more fairly,” said attorney Ben Galloway of Owen Galloway & Myers in Gulfport. “Right now, the deck is stacked against the policyholder. We’ve seen it over and over in Katrina litigation.
“There’s really not much incentive for insurance companies to be fair with insureds on a claim.” Continue reading “Anita Lee fires up da Grilletta: In Mississippi “the deck is stacked against the policyholder”. Bill of Rights Anyone?”