Miss.: Judge Denies Insurer’s Motion for New Trial

May 14, 2007

A federal judge Friday denied State Farm Fire & Casualty Co.’s request for a new trial in a Hurricane Katrina case that could cost the company more than $1.2 million.

Judge L.T. Senter Jr. saw no reason to grant a new trial to Bloomington-based State Farm, which lost a January jury trial in a lawsuit by Biloxi residents Norman and Genevieve Broussard.

Their home was reduced to a slab in the August 2005 storm, but State Farm said it was unclear whether the hurricane’s wind was to blame or whether it was wind-driven rising water – which generally isn’t covered by insurers.

Senter presided over the original trial. He took part of the case out of jurors’ hands and ruled that State Farm was liable for $223,292 to cover the Broussards’ home, plus $1 million in punitive damages. That was a reduction from the jury’s award of $2.5 million.

State Farm said it will take the case to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Broussards will not collect on their awards until the appeals process is over, which could take a year or more, said their attorney, Jack Denton. They have not yet rebuilt their home, and now live elsewhere in Biloxi, Denton said.

Since Senter’s original ruling, State Farm has settled every case due for trial and continues to negotiate with customers who sued the company for Katrina-related claims, Supple said. The company also has reached agreements with the states of Mississippi and Louisiana to reopen and possibly pay thousands of claims.

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