Attorney files suit against State Farm

The Associated Press
January 5, 2006

BILOXI, Miss. - State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. is facing another lawsuit over damages from Hurricane Katrina.

Biloxi attorney Judy Guice is suing State Farm on behalf of all coast residents who had "all risk" homeowner policies but are being refused coverage for hurricane damages, The Sun Herald reported on its Web site Wednesday.

Attorney Richard T. Phillips of Batesville filed the class-action lawsuit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Gulfport. A judge must grant class-action status.

The lawsuit contends that State Farm is obligated to fully cover the loss of Guice's home in Ocean Springs.

The losses of other coast homeowners with all perils policies from State Farm also should be covered, the lawsuit says.

State Farm denied Guice coverage under her homeowner's policy, citing an exclusion for water damage that includes tidal surge.

Guice's lawsuit says State Farm should pay up because, the way the policy is worded, all damage is covered unless it would have occurred only as a result of the tidal surge.

Wind damage is a covered peril and, since it contributed to the damage, the policy should be paid in full, the lawsuit says.

U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., is also among homeowners suing the company, which is based in Bloomington, Ill.

The law office of Lott's brother-in-law, high-profile plaintiff's attorney Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, has filed the federal lawsuit on behalf of Lott and his wife. Lott wants the company to pay for damage to his beachfront Pascagoula home, which was leveled by the Aug. 29 storm.

Both cases are part of an ongoing wind-versus-water-damage showdown between insurance companies and thousands of storm victims. The issue is whether a wind-driven storm surge is the same as flooding. The companies contend they shouldn't have to pay for water damage for those who did not have flood policies.

Copyright © 2006 by The Associated Press

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