Addressing a looming insurance deadline that could affect thousands of homeowners and businesses, the Louisiana House of Representatives passed a bill to give insurance claimants an extra year to file a lawsuit over settlements related to damage from hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Passing in a 96-8 vote May 15, the bill by Rep. Arthur Morrell, D-New Orleans, is one of a group of bills sweeping through the Legislature in an attempt to head off the impact of a provision in many insurance agreements that gives policyholders only one year to file a lawsuit after the time of the damage.
After the post-Katrina one-year period to file lawsuits expires Aug. 29, policyholders essentially will have lost their primary leverage to squeeze money out of their insurance companies. Lawmakers said policyholders who have not received their settlement money by then would be at a great disadvantage.
“I’ve either got to get it in writing that I’ll get an extension or I’ve got to sue” before Aug. 29, said Rep. Jim Tucker, R-Terrytown. “The clock is ticking on their rights under the existing contract.”
House members pointed out that the bills might be unconstitutional because they seek to change contracts made by private parties in the past.
Morrell and others are pressing for legislation to be signed by the governor in the next couple of weeks, followed by an emergency request to the state Supreme Court to determine whether the measure is constitutional.
A similar bill already has passed the Senate. Morrell said the lawmakers will work together to get behind a single legislative vehicle for a new law.
House Bill 1289 can be found at www.legis.state.la.us.
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