Wind sucked the walls out of Lisanby’s house!

A civil engineer said Katrina’s wind sucked exterior walls from a home and caused other significant damage USAA insurance said was caused by water and refused to cover.

He used photos taken by USAA to describe to a Circuit Court jury the wind’s damaging effects on the two-story home of Adm. James W. and Gladys Kemp Lisanby, policyholders suing the company.

“If I have an engineering student in my class and he does not see this is wind damage, I will flunk him,” said Ralph Sinno, a civil engineer and professor at Mississippi State University.

Sinno, who speaks with a Lebanese accent, told the jury almost as soon as he took the witness stand: “I was able to arrive at a very convincing conclusion. The Lisanby home was damaged by the wind loading to the house. If there was water in the house due to storm surge, this water was a Johnny-come-lately.”

Sinno also said the roof was subjected to uplift from the wind and the interior of the house to a “tunneling effect.”

Anita Lee provided this update on testimony in Lisanby v USAA in today’s Sun Herald. USAA holds that water destroyed the first floor of the house and on that basis the Linsanby’s claim was properly handled and paid.

Lee’s update also completed the testimony of a neighbor testifying on the depth of water coming into the neighborhood.

Earlier Wednesday, Lisanby neighbor Steve Loper testified he rode out the storm at his house on Washington Avenue, due north of the Lisanbys’ property. Loper rose around dawn.

Within short order the wind embedded his Ford F-150 pickup in the ground, peeled hurricane-resistant shutters from his windows and front door and sent a beam, 19 feet long, crashing into an inner wall of his home.

Loper said he tucked personal identification papers into a sandwich bag, taped it to his body and called his wife and children to say goodbye.

He started to cry as he recounted the morning of Aug. 29, 2005.

“I didn’t think I would be there at the end of the day,” Loper said.

Under cross-examination, Loper acknowledged wind-driven water could have damaged portions of his property and the Lisanbys’, including their garage and a guest cottage.

After the storm, he told a USAA engineer the water was 8 to 10 feet on Washington Avenue. After studying photographs, Loper said he was mistaken. He told the jury the water’s height was closer to 3 feet on the Lisanby property.

There was no rhyme or reason to Katrina’s pattern of destruction – that I know because I saw the most incredible things. A friend who worked in the relief effort provided these pictures from a Biloxi neighborhood.

What you’re looking at is a house broken apart and then washed to the street ….

…leaving behind its deck – the only example of slabbed with a deck I saw.

Across and down the street, you would see buildings that looked as if there had been no Katrina at all – but later destroyed because of the extensive water damage not visible from the exterior view here.  This shot is the house directly across  the street  with a view of others between there and the corner.

16 thoughts on “Wind sucked the walls out of Lisanby’s house!”

  1. Right, HD, I just finished reading some of the news sources we link at found this article:

    Defense lawyers argued that Loper’s wind accounts are exaggerated. They referred to a picture showing the roof of the Lisanby’s garage in the water. Defense attorneys also pointed out no shingles were missing, so the wind couldn’t have been that strong.

    The insurance company’s lawyers also showed a snap shot of the inside of Loper’s home after the storm. They say the photo clearly shows Loper’s blinds and mirror were still in place…

    As one who was there soon after the storm, I can tell you that I find nothing unusual about either of those situations. There were just countless examples of things like that.

    In fact, see if you don’t think Loper’s description of what happened to the Lisanby’s garage doesn’t remind you of what must have happened to the house in the photos I added.

    “It looked like the cottage was hooked to a trailer. It pulled out onto his driveways, took a left, and I guess it said, ‘I am getting out of here.’ It [the cottage] hit Washington and just exploded. I mean, it was the strangest thing you’ve ever seen,”…

    I feel the same way about seeing that house sitting in the street with its guts spilling out and a deck in such good shape you could have a cookout – and then a few doors down there was a van parked under an awning-style carport as if there had been no Katrina at all.

  2. You’re going to want the next one I post, too – and I’m going to want to link to the humor in your version…give me a minute and you’ll see.

  3. Therein lies the insurance industry’s incredible arrogance in these cases. As an Allstate lawyer told me off the record regarding a house on Lake Pontchartrain in Slidell, LA: “We all know that a giant tsunami washed all of these houses away.” My response was, “I guess the tidal wave missed the structures that are still standing.” Maybe he did not know that a tidal surge in a hurricane is generated by wind, whereas a tsunami is generated by an underwater earthquake.

    I’m not sure I like the plaintiffs’ engineer’s dismissive approach in this case, although it might work. Nobody, including the engineers seems to be willing to concede that much of the damage might have been caused by a combination of wind and water, in which instance, the insurer should get “slabbed.”

    No doubt the worst of the monumental wind damage, even if not segregable, came first. I have a State Farm document wherein someone states that the storm surge came first. I hope this jury blasts USAA.

  4. “Arrogant ignorance” is what I call it, Rick, and I’ve never seen anything like this condescending “you people just want money your not entitled to” approach to claims handling.

    I saw so much that it’s hard to remember – I certainly would have taken notes if I’d thought anyone would doubt what happened. I mean, of all people, you’d think insurance folks would have been glued to CNN. How many times did we see pictures of what the wind was doing and then hear, “we’ve got to take cover, the rain is starting…” duh!

    Next case, call Anderson Cooper.

    btw, what nice manners you have to call the engineer’s approach “dismissive” – lordknows, I bet he’d peel the paint off the courtroom walls if he gets a question asked the wrong way.

  5. HD, it’s going to take a little while longer for the next one to go up – the picture is giving me fits…but hold on!

  6. One or two witnesses for the plaintiffs or the defense do not make the case. Until all testimony and evidence is considered speculation is exactley what it is – speculation. An inefficient way to use energy.

  7. Dr. Aiken has been doing defense medical examinations in the N.O. area for decades, and he has made ungodly money from insurance companies. I have deposed him and crossed him at trial on a few occasions in personal injury cases. It was ironic that he went to the mat with USAA.

    That having been said, I thought he was right; I saw the 2 Rimkus reports and they were like night(wind) and day(water). I’m not so sure naming Rimkus as a defendant was a great move, and the Lisanby lawyers appear not to have done so with the USAA engineers.

    Supsalemgr is right, and I have suffered through enough wacky jury verdicts to know that NOTHING is a sure thing.

    There is also some sense of Katrina-litigation fatigue with juries. I helped a friend try a business interruption claim against United Fire Group a couple of months ago, and although we won and got bad faith penalties and damages, it was not a big win. Ironically, United Fire/Lafayette Ins. Co. which has been one of the worst on Katrina claims, is headquartered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

  8. Thanks for the background on Dr AIken Rick. My business insurer was UFG. It took me 17 months to settle my claim from them. The adjuster they sent for my claim needed a seeing eye dog.


  9. Anyone can plainly see that the Lisenbys house was damaged by storm surge. The top floor was subjected to the same winds as the bottom floor. I have never seen hurricane winds blow from the ground surface up to 8′ or 10′. Wake up people!!!!!!!!!! its the cost of living on the coast!!!!!!!!!!! I have lived on the Gulf Coast for 44yrs.

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