By Aaron D. Coombs, Associate, Perkins Coie LLP
District Judge Kern Reece of Orleans Parish, Louisiana, approved a $20 million class-action settlement with Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Company on January 30, 2013, for claims related to the insurance company's alleged untimely payment of claims resulting from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The settlement in Orrill, et al. v. Louisiana Citizens Fair Plan, et al., No. 05-11720, Orleans Parish Dist. Ct. Div. L-6, should resolve one of several class actions that were filed against Citizens in 2005 for mismanagement of policyholders' claims after the state-run insurance company of last resort was overwhelmed with claims following the two hurricanes. This commentary describes the complex path to the settlement, including related litigation against the Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Company. It discusses an appellate ruling finding the class of claimants to have been impermissibly expanded, the subsequent certification of a new class by a trial court and the failed attempt by the insurer to decertify the class, after which the settlement ensued. The commentary offers important lessons for class action litigators, insurers and individual and corporate policyholders confronting the aftermath of widespread catastrophic losses.
Aaron Coombs is an associate with the insurance coverage practice of Perkins Coie LLP. He represents corporate policyholders in coverage disputes and litigation and has experience in every stage of civil litigation-from pre-suit negotiation to appellate litigation-having represented clients in disputes over mass tort, product liability, environmental contamination and other claims.
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