Nearly six years after Hurricane Katrina struck, Louisiana residents are still dealing with the traumatic and costly effects of the storm. The American Red Cross estimates that approximately 275,000 Louisiana homes were destroyed by the storm and thousands more were damaged. Even those homeowners with insurance can find the recovery of damages to be a difficult and definitely expensive process. This financial burden, regardless of the supposed
Many homeowners filing claims for damages were in for a nasty surprise: the “Named Storm Deductible.” Under Louisiana law, insurance companies can implement deductibles of as much as 5% of the value of the insured property for damage caused by “named storms,” including tropical storms and hurricanes such as Hurricane Gustav or Hurricane Katrina. Frequently these provisions have not appeared on the original policies, but were added during a policy renewal, meaning homeowners are unaware of its existence or don’t understand its implications.
Under a Named Storm Deductible of 5%, for example, damage caused to a home with an insured value of $100,000 would cost the homeowners a deductible of $5,000, rather than the standard $500 or $1,000 deductible ordinarily applied to such losses. Litigation arguing against and interpreting these deductibles can be complicated and frustrating.
Homeowners Mary Williams, Michael Manint, and Susan Manint ran into this problem firsthand when recovering from damage caused to their homes by Hurricane Katrina. While their policy from Republic Fire and Casualty Insurance Company includes a Named Storm Deductible of five percent (5%), it does not specifically designate what the 5% is to be taken from: the damage amount or the dwelling coverage limit. One year, when renewing their homeowners insurance, Republic sent them an Important Policyholder Notice explaining the application of the Named Storm Deductible. The Notice included an example of the Named Storm Deductible which showed that the deductible would be 5% of the dwelling coverage limit. This distinction, however, did not actually appear within the provisions of their policies.
After Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana, Republic determined that Ms. Williams and the Manints would have to pay deductibles of $7,320 and $4,445, respectively, which were 5% of their dwelling coverage limits. Both homeowners, however, had expected to have to pay only 5% of the covered loss, which would have amounted to costs under $1,000.
Both homeowners filed suit against Republic, asserting that the company had miscalculated the Named Storm Deductible. They argued this on the theory that the Important Policyholder Notice, which showed that the 5% was to be taken from the dwelling coverage limit, could not be considered when interpreting the Named Storm Deductible. The district court however, disagreed and ruled in favor of Republic, confirming that the deductible had been calculated correctly.
On appeal, the court affirmed the district court’s ruling. Under Louisiana law, because the Important Policyholder Notice was physically attached to the renewal policies, it was made a part of them as well. This meant that the Notice’s interpretation showing that the 5% was to be taken from the dwelling coverage limit was part of the policy and thus enforceable against the homeowners.
If you find yourself in a similar predicament, consulting with a legal expert may be your best chance in receiving the justice you deserve.
The Berniard Law Firm has experience working with the victims of Hurricane Katrina and their families. Call us at 1-866-574-8005 or visit laclaim.com and let us help you.