State Farm to pay $80 million to 600 Katrina victims

By The Associated Press

State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. agreed Tuesday to settle hundreds of lawsuits by policyholders and reopen and pay thousands of other disputed claims, a landmark deal potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars for Mississippi homeowners devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

The settlement calls for State Farm to pay about $80 million to more than 600 policyholders who sued the company for refusing to cover damage from the Aug. 29, 2005, storm.

State Farm also agreed to pay at least $50 million, but possibly hundreds of millions more, to thousands of Mississippi policyholders whose claims were denied but didn’t sue the company.

State Farm’s agreement with Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood and lawyers for the more than 600 policyholders resolves a civil lawsuit that Hood filed against the company for refusing to cover damage from Katrina.

The accord also resolves Hood’s criminal probe of allegations that the Bloomington, Ill.-based insurer fraudulently denied claims after the storm.

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“It’s been like a death roll with an alligator for the last two months in these negotiations,” Hood said Tuesday.

Mississippi’s mass settlement, the first of its kind since Katrina spawned hundreds of lawsuits against State Farm and other major insurers, does not involve any claims in other states.

The deal was expected to be presented to U.S. District Judge L.T. Senter Jr. in Gulfport on Tuesday afternoon. Senter must sign off on the settlement.

“The agreement greatly reduces the time, the risk and the expense of defending multiple claims in individual litigation,” said State Farm spokesman Phil Supple.

State Farm says it already has paid roughly $1.1 billion for about 84,000 property claims in the state.