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State Farm to reopen claims over Katrina

March 20, 2007|From the Associated Press

JACKSON, MISS. — State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. will reexamine more than 35,000 policyholder claims filed after Hurricane Katrina and "make millions of dollars available" for additional payments, Mississippi Insurance Commissioner George Dale said Monday.

Dale said the agreement between his office and State Farm covered homeowners, renters and commercial claims in the state's three coastal counties. The agreement with the Bloomington, Ill.-based insurer covers claims that are in mediation, those that are the subject of pending lawsuits and those that have been settled.

"If they feel like that they were mistreated and not handled properly, they too can have their case reopened and looked at by additional adjusters," Dale said of people who have settled.

He said that based on his agency's examination of State Farm's handling of Katrina claims and the recent withdrawal of a proposed class-action settlement involving the insurer, he had persuaded the company to agree to the "accelerated process to reopen and readjust all Hurricane Katrina claims upon request in the Mississippi coastal counties."

"We anticipate that this will be a quicker process for the folks on the coast so that they can get money, additional moneys in their pocket for the purpose of rebuilding," Dale said during a news conference in Jackson.

On March 12, a team of lawyers who helped negotiate the proposed settlement withdrew its request for U.S. District Judge L.T. Senter Jr. to approve the deal. The team cited a stalemate and Senter's apparent reluctance to approve the settlement.

Senter had been asked to approve the January settlement calling for State Farm to pay at least $50 million to policyholders who hadn't sued the company. That deal called for State Farm to reopen, review and possibly pay 35,000 to 36,000 claims.

State Farm spokesman Phil Supple said Monday that the company's agreement with Dale "generally follows" the same terms as the agreement presented to Senter in January.

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