La. Judge Steps Down from Suit Against Last-Resort Insurer

May 5, 2006

A judge has disqualified herself from a lawsuit brought by policyholders against Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

Civil District Judge June Darensburg said she found out she has a policy from Louisiana Citizens, which was created by the state Legislature in 2003 to act as a safety net for those who cannot get policies from private insurance companies.

The suit seeks class-action status for plaintiffs who say Citizens Fair Plan, the insurance plan of last resort for homeowners and renters who do not live in coastal areas of the state, did not adjust claims in a timely fashion, leading to additional property damage for policyholders.

Attorneys have estimated that the class could range from 20,000 policyholders to all 65,000 Citizens policyholders.

Before the judge removed herself, Terry Lisotta, executive director of Citizens, testified that the state-sponsored insurance plan implemented its catastrophe plan Aug. 27, two days before Hurricane Katrina hit.

Lisotta said the company that administers claims had mailed out claims forms to 70,000 customers after the storm, but that many had been returned because policyholders had moved.

He said policyholders had a difficult time contacting Citizens at first because of a massive telecommunications failure and that other delays in settling claims resulted from a change of administrators.

Lisotta said 92 percent of the claims have been paid.

Information from: The Times-Picayune,

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