Thursday, October 15, 2009
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
BLEAK LOUISIANA INSURANCE CLIMATE IN MONTHS TO COME!
There should be plenty of good news on the property insurance front, both in Louisiana and throughout the gulf south. Hurricane season is over, the third year in a row without the threat of a major storm. One would think this would be both good news and the beginning of price drops. But that’s not the case. There are bad financial storm clouds arising that bode ill for Louisiana policy holders in the coming year. Look for higher rates and less coverage. Here are some of the problem areas.
The new troubling insurance buzzword for homeowners? Chinese drywall. Thousands of Louisiana homes have been infested with defective drywall from China that was imported during the construction boom following Katrina to meet heavy demand. For reasons yet unknown, the drywall was contaminated with various sulfur compounds. This reaction causes quick metal corrosion allowing plumbing and appliances to fail. The foul odor that follows makes these homes unlivable and expensive to repair, and the defective sheetrock has to be torn out.
So you call you insurance company – right? Unfortunately, in most cases, insurance companies have been rejecting drywall claims, and even going so far as to not renew the homeowner’s policy. Property insurance companies, particularly in Louisiana, argue that drywall damage was not a “sudden event” like wind damage or flooding. Since 1984, insurance companies have been adding “pollution exclusion” to all their homeowner policies, stating that no coverage exists when a pollutant cases damage. Drywall problems, according to the insurance industry, cause damage over a period of time, and therefore the homeowner should have taken action for damage control.
This is not supposed to be the case in Louisiana. The Louisiana Insurance Department, back in the late 1990s, specifically defined the scope of such exclusion more narrowly than most states and allowed it to be applied “only to those injuries or damage caused by environmental pollution.” Simply put, nothing like drywall damage should be excluded, said the Insurance Commissioner at that time (obviously, a pretty bright guy). The Louisiana Supreme Court followed the Insurance department’s reasoning in the landmark case of Doerr v. Mobil Oil Corp. in 2000. Continue reading “Jim Brown on Chinese Drywall, the Pollution Exclusion and Corban”