Federal Court to Hear Nationwide’s Miss. Katrina Storm Surge Appeal

July 6, 2007

A federal appeals court has set Aug. 6 as the date to hear arguments on whether Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. should be forced to cover storm surge damage to a Mississippi’s couple’s home from Hurricane Katrina.

Oral arguments will be heard before 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals only a few weeks before the second anniversary of the hurricane, which ravaged Louisiana and Mississippi on Aug. 29, 2005.

Nationwide, based in Columbus, Ohio, appealed a 2006 decision by U.S. District Judge L.T. Senter Jr. that Paul and Julie Leonard of Pascagoula cannot collect damages from storm surge caused by Katrina because Nationwide’s policies do not cover wind-driven water damage.

Senter said the Leonards could, however, be compensated for damage that they can prove was caused by high winds.

If Senter’s ruling stands, it could set a precedent for hundreds of other court challenges to the insurance industry for denying billions of dollars in claims after the hurricane.

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