Court rules in wind-versus-water case

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Published: October 12,2009

Tags: disaster recovery, insurance, judiciary

According to USAA, the Mississippi Supreme Court has issued a unanimous decision in Corban v. USAA, settling once and for all the legal issues surrounding Hurricane Katrina claims in Mississippi, and confirming that USAA has handled Katrina claims correctly.

“This ruling is a good decision for USAA as well as for Mississippi homeowners,” said Paul Berry, a spokesperson for USAA, a diversified financial services group of companies. “Each key position USAA put forth was affirmed by the court.”

USAAA reports those positions are:

• The court endorsed USAA’s claims-handling policy in Katrina. USAA paid for damage caused solely by wind but did not pay for damage caused by storm surge.

• The court affirmed USAA’s legal argument that a jury should decide what losses, if any, were caused by wind, and what losses, if any, were caused by flood.

• The court found that the water damage exclusion in USAA’s homeowners’ policy clearly excludes storm surge.

• The court rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that the homeowners’ policy covers all damage caused by a hurricane, regardless of the cause.

USAA said it already has paid the Corbans for damage caused solely by wind and for damages covered by their flood policy. This ruling allows the case to go to trial so a jury can determine if any additional damage was caused to the Corban home by wind rather than by water/storm surge, which is what USAA has sought all along.

The court did reject an argument by Nationwide Insurance, which argued that even if a house is damaged by wind, if flooding later takes place, there is no coverage. USAA has never supported this argument, and has never handled claims in this manner, it said.

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