The media is trying to scoop each other on the five year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. In State Farm’s hometown of Bloomington, Illinois, the Pantagraph ran a story about State Farm’s Hurricane Katrina litigation. A massive and unfinished novel could be written on that subject. I found the article by Ryan Denhem, How State Farm Fought Through the Second Storm, to be far too light an analysis of some of the most important insurance coverage litigation ever waged.
State Farm was the major personal lines insurance company along the Mississippi coast when Hurricane Katrina hit. At its moment of truth — when it had to decide whether to give its customers the benefit of the doubt and pay for Slab claims, State Farm’s highest claims officers decided to deny those claims. The story inaccurately says that State Farm won this battle. It lost, and its loss would have been a financial catastrophe, but for a dubious ruling by the Federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which allowed State Farm to escape punative damages.
Still, I found State Farm to be a very able opponent during the Hurricane Katrina litigation and said so in the article:
State Farm is known for taking a broader view of each disputed case than other insurers, said Chip Merlin, a Florida attorney who said he’s handled hundreds of Katrina claim cases, including many State Farm customers.
"It’s about what (the case) might mean not just today, but five years from now," said Merlin, who only has a half-dozen cases still pending. "They’re very worthy adversaries."
The story is not quite complete because a qui tam case involving State Farm catastrophe claims adjusters is set for trial in December. In that case, State Farm allegedly overpaid flood claims to reduce payments it owed under all risk policies.
While all this nostalgia is going on, there are new dangers lurking in the Atlantic. As correctly predicted in Tropical Waves off Africa Indicate a Need for Concern, Hurricane Danielle has formed and another very strong wave seems destined to become a hurricane as well. Regarding the second wave, the National Hurricane Center has this to say:
A BROAD AREA OF LOW PRESSURE ASSOCIATED WITH A TROPICAL WAVE LOCATED ABOUT 350 MILES SOUTHEAST OF THE CAPE VERDE ISLANDS CONTINUES TO SHOW SIGNS OF ORGANIZATION. THIS SYSTEM COULD BECOME A TROPICAL DEPRESSION DURING THE NEXT DAY OR TWO AS IT MOVES WESTWARD OR WEST-NORTHWESTWARD AT ABOUT 15 MPH. THERE IS A HIGH CHANCE…60 PERCENT…OF THIS SYSTEM BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS. (emphasis added)
Five years ago, I was in pretty good shape, getting ready to run a marathon in a Boston Marathon qualifying time. Today, I am again getting ready to run a marathon, but my ever aging body is heavier and losing its get up and go. Given all these sanguine memories, lost abilities, frightening anticipations, and hopes for surprising happy endings, this seems a very appropriate ending to the post: