U.S. Sen. Trent Lott is suing his insurance company to collect for damage to his beachfront Pascagoula home, which was leveled by Hurricane Katrina.
The law office of Lott’s brother-in-law, high-profile plaintiff’s attorney Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, filed the federal lawsuit Thursday against State Farm on behalf of Lott and his wife.
The case is 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.
“Today I have joined in a lawsuit against my longtime insurance company because it will not honor my policy, nor those of thousands of other south Mississippians, for coverage against wind damage due to Hurricane Katrina,” said Lott, R-Miss. “There is no credible argument that there was no wind damage to my home in Pascagoula.”
State Farm declined to comment on the specifics of the lawsuit.
“There is no question Katrina caused horrific damage in Mississippi and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast,” said State Farm spokesman Phil Supple. “We can’t comment on this litigation. We handle each claim on its own merits and we pay what we owe based on our contract with the policy holder.”
Republican Gov. Haley Barbour has said he prefers to negotiate with insurance companies, saying lawsuits could force the companies out of Mississippi.
However, Attorney General Jim Hood, who filed a lawsuit on behalf of Mississippians with standard homeowner’s policies, says the companies should cover hurricane damage no matter if the loss is from wind damage or a storm surge. Hood says damages could cost billions.
Scruggs, who also lost his Pascagoula home, led the charge in the landmark tobacco lawsuits of the 1990s, and has promised to use his clout to get insurance companies to pay up.
Lott said he has exhausted all other options and had no choice but to turn to the courts.
“My hope is that this litigation will set a precedent for the thousands of other Mississippi homeowners holding policies for coverage against hurricane wind damage that are not being honored by their insurance companies for Katrina,” he said.