Saturday, August 12, 2006

8/12/2006 Community Gumbo

audio Democracy Now (8/10/06)
  • Report Rules FBI Justified in Fatal Shooting of Puerto Rican Independence Leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios
  • Did BP Purposefully Allow its Alaska Pipeline to Corrode in Order to Shut it Down and Boost Oil Prices?
  • Lebanon Facing its Worst Environmental Disaster Ever: Oil Spill From Israeli Strike Still Untreated After One Month
  • Israeli Ambassador Grilled on Targeting of Civilians, Use of Cluster Bombs and Other War Crimes in Lebanon

Sufjian Stevens, "Flint (For The Unemployed And Underpaid)."

audio Sue your insurance company now!
In this edition of Community Gumbo, New Orleans residents fight to get their storm insurance claims settled.

Interviews with Mid-City residents Michael Homan and Therese Fitzpatrick, and Uptown resident Lisa Palumbo, as well as legal advice from Gregory Johnson, an attorney at Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, and Bradley Elizabeth Black, the Katrina Staff Attorney at the Loyola Law Clinic.

The bottom line: If you don't have a check from your insurance company for damages caused by Hurricane Katrina, the deadline to file a lawsuit against your insurance company for Katrina-related damages is August 28th, 2006; for Rita-related damages, September 23rd, 2006. Don't become a victim twice. File to sue your insurance company even if you think it's working in good faith, and you may even want to file to sue if you haven't completed repairs to your house.

audio Michael Homan and Therese Fitzpatrick, Mid City

audio Lisa Palumbo, Uptown

Thanks to Rachel for production assistance.

audio Gregory Johnson, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services
Southeast Louisiana Legal Services is a non-profit law office which has served the low-income community since 1979.
A project of a coalition of Louisiana legal services programs, other state advocacy groups, and the national organization Pro Bono Net, to increase access to justice in Louisiana by giving the public easy and free internet access to information that will help with civil legal problems. Southeast Louisiana Legal Services Corporation administers the project.

Southeast Louisiana Legal Services has posted information and forms on to help homeowners file a lawsuit against their insurance providers.

audio Bradley Elizabeth Black, Katrina Staff Attorney at the Loyola Law Clinic
The Loyola Law Clinic is also distributing information packets to help people file lawsuits against their insurance companies by the August 28th deadline for Hurricane Katrina, and September 23rd for Hurricane Rita. The Loyola Law Clinic is on the third floor of the Loyola Law School, 526 Pine Street, Room 120, 861-5590 (ext. 2).

Kirk Joseph, "Backyard Joseph" (only available at Audible Vision,


Michael Homan's blog
Michael has written extensively about his insurance problems, including this exposé: "Haag Engineering: An Insurer's Best Friend"

Lisa Palumbo's blog
Read an assortment of Lisa's posts detailing her insurance frustrations.

People Get Ready -- Hold on to your wallet

Other phone numbers:
Louisiana Bar Association attorney referral service: 504-561-8828
New Orleans Pro Bono Project: 504-581-4043
New Orleans Legal Assistance Center: 504-529-1000

MSNBC, "Nearly 700 file suit over denied Katrina claims: Homeowners accuse State Farm of using ‘one-size-fits-all’ method"
The suit claims an engineering firm hired by State Farm drafted a generic, “one-size-fits-all” report that concludes all damage to homes on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast was caused by “storm surge” and not hurricane-force winds.

State Farm’s policies cover wind damage, but storm surge is considered flood water and is excluded from coverage.

The report, which Dallas-based HAAG Engineering Co. prepared for State Farm, is “patently biased” because it concludes that Katrina’s storm surge arrived before its wind could do any damage, the lawsuit argues.

“State Farm nonetheless referred to this report as the ’Bible,’ and expected and coerced all of its adjusters and engineers ... to reach conclusions consistent with the HAAG report,” the lawsuit alleges.

Sun Herald, "Damaging opinions: Attorney claims consultants' findings convenient for insurance companies"
Oklahoma attorney Jeff Marr saw what was coming before Hurricane Katrina hit Mississippi's shoreline.

Insurance companies, he suspected, would deny or underpay policyholder claims based on expert opinions from failure and damage consultants such as Dallas-based Haag Engineering.

Marr, who recently won a $13 million verdict against State Farm on behalf of Oklahoma tornado victims, learned a great deal about how insurance companies control claim costs as he prepared his case, filed in 2000 and tried this spring.

The disaster may change, Marr said, but the approach to handling claims remains the same.

Many Mississippi policyholders whose homes Katrina pounded with both wind and water agree. Insurers have denied coverage to thousands of their Coast policyholders, blaming damage on tidal surge, covered through the National Flood Insurance Program.

Both Nationwide and State Farm have bought copies of the "Hurricane Katrina Damage Survey" authored by Haag failure and damage consultant Timothy P. Marshall. Marshall happened to be "the closer" for State Farm in the Oklahoma case, Marr said, the last of several Haag engineers to testify for the nation's largest insurer of homes and autos.

The jury found that State Farm "recklessly disregarded its duty to deal fairly and act in good faith," and further, did so with malice. Marshall's name came up when Marr visited with several jurors, at their request, after the trial.

"The jury hated him," Marr said. "They viewed him as a professional witness. They gave him the consideration his expert opinion deserved and wrote him off.

"Haag has been involved with State Farm since the '80s. So (State Farm) knew what they were going to get when they hired them. Not one time did Haag agree with the policyholder as to the nature and extent of the damage. Not once."

Haag Engineering

Haag Hurricane Katrina Damage Survey


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