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Mayor: New Orleans 'piled it on' for $77 billion lawsuit

Old 03-04-07, 11:06 AM
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Mayor: New Orleans 'piled it on' for $77 billion lawsuit

I feel so bad for the people down on the coast. But isn't this just getting silly? 77B, that is all but a made up number. It is like, "lets throw something out there and see if it sticks". Come on. At what point did people stop talking sensibly about this. Are there going to be any real solutions while people talk like that?

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AP) -- Only $1 billion of the $77 billion the city is seeking from the Army Corps of Engineers is for infrastructure damages it says it suffered because of levee breaches during Hurricane Katrina. The rest is for such things as the city's tarnished image and tourist industry losses.

The city "looked at everything and just kind of piled it on," Mayor Ray Nagin said.
"We got some advice from some attorneys to be aggressive with the number, and we'll see what happens," he said.

New Orleans has joined big business and thousands of homeowners in filing claims seeking compensation from the corps for damages sustained when the levees broke during the 2005 storm, flooding 80 percent of the city.

The claims allege poor design and negligence by the corps led to the failure of flood walls and levees.

The city attorney's office also considered such things as "decreases in the city's image, tourist industry activity and potential business industry, losses in the tax base and generated revenue, and a decrease in the city's overall population," in making the assessment, according to a statement from City Hall.

A spokeswoman for the mayor could not explain how the city quantified losses not tied to infrastructure. A 43-page form filed with the corps, reserving the city's right to sue for $77 billion, also provides little insight. It does not quantify "loss of tax revenue," for example, and supporting documents for city-owned properties, such as a police crime lab and libraries, omit any estimates of property values or flood-related damages, The Times-Picayune newspaper reported Saturday.

Last edited by Sdallnct; 03-04-07 at 11:38 AM.
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Old 03-04-07, 11:13 AM
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they don't want to go there. once they go to discovery all the stories of corruption by local officials in pushing the Army Corps of Engineers in using their best friend's or cousin's construction firm
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Old 03-04-07, 11:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Sdallnct
I feel so bad for the people down on the coast. But isn't this just getting silly? 77B, that is all but a made up number. It is like, "lets throw something out there and see if it sticks". Come on. At what point did people stop talking sensibly about this. Are there going to be any real solutions while people talk like that?
And lets not forget it is "real" money. Either they raise our taxes, "steal" it from funding for preparation for the next emergency, or "steal" it from something else. Making up the largest conceivable number should be a big "no sale" to the rest of us.

I don't think levies can be made good enough to protect a town below sea level, so lets just bulldoze it. Otherwise, they will be suing us again in a few years.

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Old 03-04-07, 11:37 AM
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Originally Posted by OldDude
And lets not forget it is "real" money. Either they raise our taxes, "steal" it from funding for preparation for the next emergency, or "steal" it from something else. Making up the largest conceivable number should be a big "no sale" to the rest of us.

I don't think levies can be made good enough to protect a town below sea level, so lets just bulldoze it. Otherwise, they will be suing us again in a few years.
Great point. It is real money. So where would it come from. Obviously every taxpayer in the US. And I think this is where NO is making a huge mistake (yet another one): By being so ridiculous in their claim and not being able to substantiate it, they will turn public opinion against them.

There is no doubt the entire country is going to have to be involved (and has already been involved) in helping people on the coast, but at some point the public is going to say: "enough is enough".

And that is before you even get into the "mistakes" made by the city and state. Are they going to off set their own mistakes against this claim? Of if the city wins and has money again, can others sue the city??
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Old 03-04-07, 11:47 AM
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This is one of the reasons I was so happy that NO wasn't in the Superbowl. I'm tired of hearing about his stupid chocolate city. This makes me even more tired.
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Old 03-04-07, 11:52 AM
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They shouldn't be suing the Army Corps of Engineers in the first place. The Corps tried to do the right thing but was thwarted at every turn by environmental groups:

Dam Environmentalists (Why there's no hope for the obvious solution to New Orleans flooding)
The Weekly Standard ^ | January 16, 2006 | John Berlau

Posted on 01/07/2006 2:32:07 PM PST by RWR8189

GIVEN THE PASTING PRESIDENT BUSH has taken over the government's response to Hurricane Katrina, one might have assumed the president's critics were in agreement about how to prevent such disasters. But for years now, the left has been deeply ambivalent about the most logical and time-tested mitigator against the threat of city-wide and regional floods: dams.

How could dams, embraced by everyone from beavers to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, be a source of contention? Ask the environmentalists. Their campaign against dams has gained influence and stalled, decommissioned, or otherwise limited the construction of many dams and levees, including one project that could have made a significant difference during Katrina's pounding of New Orleans. This animus against dams also continues to skew spending and construction priorities to make such disasters more likely in the future.

Until recently, dams were the pride of the left, and for good reason: They provide electricity, irrigation, and, of course, bulwarks against flooding. In 1964, presidential candidate Barry Goldwater was thought to have committed campaign suicide when he proposed privatizing the Tennessee Valley Authority, which had been built with New Deal dollars. Local voters, grateful to the TVA for providing power and controlling wild rivers, didn't much like Goldwater's argument.

Now a position far more radical has become respectable. In Deep Water: The Epic Struggle over Dams, Displaced People, and the Environment, a new book receiving rave reviews from the mainstream press, Jacques Leslie assails all dams as "loaded weapons aimed down rivers" and calls for rivers to be allowed to return to their natural flows. Leslie, who was a Vietnam war correspondent for the Los Angeles Times and has written for magazines such as Harper's and the Washington Monthly, takes on what he calls the "Rooseveltian vision, arising out of the New Deal, built into the Hoover Dam and the Tennessee Valley Authority, enthralled with its seeming capacity to foster prosperity by subjugating nature." He concludes by inveighing against dams as "relics of the twentieth century, like Stalinism and gasoline-powered cars, symbols of the allure of technology and its transience . . . of the delusion that humans are exempt from nature's dominion."

Most New Deal programs are considered sacred on the left, as George Bush learned recently when he tried to reform Social Security. But liberals conveniently forget Roosevelt's no-nonsense views on dealing with nature. At the 1935 dedication of Hoover Dam, FDR hailed the taming of a "turbulent, dangerous river" and the "completion of the greatest dam in the world." He proudly noted that the dam on the Colorado River was "altering the geography of a whole region," calling what had existed before "cactus-covered waste" and "an unpeopled, forbidding desert."

Roosevelt also defended public works such as dams on the now-discredited Keynesian ground that they create jobs (the New Deal did not bring down overall unemployment, which only returned to pre-Depression levels with World War II), but he was generally pragmatic about nature in its pristine state. About the river he said bluntly that "the Colorado added little of value to the region this dam serves." In the spring, he said, farmers "awaited with dread the coming of a flood, and at the end of nearly every summer they feared a shortage of water that would destroy their crops."

But to Leslie, damming the Colorado River was a damn shame, and he pushes for returning it "to its virgin state: tempestuous, fickle, and in some stretches astonishing." He acknowledges that if you took away the dams and the hydroelectric power they provide, you would also "take away modern Los Angeles, San Diego, and Phoenix" as well as the nearby former desert outpost known as Las Vegas. But in exchange for this major subtraction from civilization as we know it, Americans would be able to marvel at a "free-flowing river" and "an unparalleled depository of marine life."

What does the left-wing website Salon, a consistent defender of New Deal programs, have to say about Leslie's savaging of Roosevelt's achievement? (And what does a West Coast webzine make of a book that proposes cutting off a major power source for Los Angeles?) Salon heaps praise on Leslie, stating in a September article that "the modern dam, in short, has come to signify both the majesty and folly of our age's drive to conquer nature."

Leslie and Salon aren't alone. Support for dam removal and opposition to new dams have become a staple among modern environmentalists, giving rise to organizations whose only agenda is to stop dams. American Rivers, for example, brags about how many dams have been decommissioned and has as its slogan "Rivers Unplugged." The Berkeley-based International Rivers Network does similar work in Third World countries, where dams are even more crucial for power and flood control. This sea change on dams illustrates a larger shift of the left concerning technology and the nature of man.

The same weekend that Salon ran its glowing notice for Jacques Leslie's rants against artificial barriers on natural rivers, it also ran an article about a recent antiwar protest in Washington under the headline "'Make Levees, Not War.'" This was a popular trope at the time, with leftie antiwar spokesmen charging that money for the war in Iraq could have gone to building levees as well as their favorite social programs. Yet one of the main obstacles, before Katrina, to building and fortifying levees, as well as creating more innovative flood barriers, was put up by environmentalists.

In 1977, the group Save Our Wetlands successfully sued the Army Corps of Engineers to halt the construction of large floodgates intended to prevent Gulf of Mexico storms from overwhelming Lake Pontchartrain and flooding New Orleans. The gates, the environmentalists said, would have hurt wetlands and marine life, although the Corps had already done an environmental assessment to the satisfaction of environmental regulators. Many experts believe the gates could have greatly reduced the impact of Katrina. "It probably would have given [the people of New Orleans] a better shot," says Daniel Canfield, a renowned professor of aquatic sciences at the University of Florida.

Then, in the 1990s, the Army Corps of Engineers tried to upgrade 303 miles of levees along the Mississippi River, telling the Baton Rouge Advocate in 1996 that a levee "failure could wreak catastrophic consequences on Louisiana and Mississippi." But the anti-dam American Rivers, along with eco-groups such as the Sierra Club and state chapters of the National Wildlife Federation, sued, alleging harm to "bottomland hardwood wetlands." This resulted in the Corps doing another environmental impact study and holding off some work for two years.

The Corps compromised with the anti-dam activists in other ways. As Ron Utt notes in a Heritage Foundation study, the Corps began spending hundreds of millions of dollars on environmentally correct projects like "aquatic ecosystems" instead of flood control. The distraction from the Corps's mission continued from the Clinton to the Bush administration and is something Bush can legitimately be blamed for.

Even now, with Katrina a recent memory, efforts to protect New Orleans are being turned into eco-boondoggles, though the media seems not to have noticed. Bills from Louisiana senators Mary Landrieu, Democrat, and David Vitter, Republican, couple money to fortify levees with millions of dollars to restore a vast swath of "coastal wetlands." These were not wetlands destroyed by Katrina, but land that started disappearing, from both natural and manmade causes, in the 1930s. The argument is made that the wetlands (which used to be called swamps) can help absorb floodwater before it gets to the city. But the University of Florida's Canfield says that while wetlands are valuable for marine life, they are vastly overrated for flood protection. "If they're already wet, and filled with water, they provide no extra protection," he says.

Leslie and other dam opponents say land-sinking and the buildup of sediment caused by dams show the futility of attempts to artificially control rivers. It's true that engineering isn't perfect, and there are always new challenges that require upkeep. But to refute the claim that dams are "dinosaurs," all we have to do is look to Western Europe, usually a favorite reference point for liberal activists and the media. There has, however, been a good deal of silence about European efforts on flood control, while the few reports that have addressed this subject largely focused on the amount of money Europe spends.

But what the countries spend it on is more important: dams, walls, and gates. After a North Sea storm in 1953, the Netherlands, half of which is below sea level, set out to dam every last major body of water. The last of these were ultramodern dams built in the 1980s. In the United States, The Weekly Standard was virtually alone in suggesting that Lake Pontchartrain could be dammed along Dutch lines. (See James R. Stoner Jr., "Love in the Ruins," September 26, 2005.) London, which sits below the high tide of the Atlantic waterways, has also had severe problems with the flooding of the Thames River. So, in the '80s, gates were built that can rise as high as five stories. The Dutch and the British are sensitive to the environment, but only to a point. They try to regulate water levels to accommodate the native fish. But neither country is undertaking massive projects to restore swamps or, in the eco parlance, "wetlands."

The environmentalist crusade against dams is curious for other reasons. The same activists who campaign for hydrogen-powered cars, for example, rail against the hydroelectricity produced by dams. As environmental journalist Gregg Easterbrook pointed out in his 1995 book A Moment on the Earth, a dam "burns no fossil fuel and emits no greenhouse gases, smog or toxic or solid wastes." Take away dams, and folks will have to rely on other energy sources such as coal, which, as we know from the recent tragedy in West Virginia, has its own environmental and safety concerns.

Citing the Dutch and British experience, Canfield says the anti-dam movement is not mainly about science, but rather philosophy, or even theology. "It's a belief structure," he says. What motivates anti-dam activists is abstract talk about man not interfering in the "ecosystem" or leaving a "footprint" on the planet. But without humans asserting themselves, nature will leave plenty of its own footprints, like Katrina, as it stomps at will over human beings and wildlife alike.
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Old 03-04-07, 01:24 PM
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If they won (and they won't, of course), that would be over $250 for every man, woman, and child in the country.
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Old 03-04-07, 01:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Breakfast with Girls
If they won (and they won't, of course), that would be over $250 for every man, woman, and child in the country.
Yea, I thought of that to. And maybe you can check my math as I'm terrible, but on the off chance they won all 77b (agree they won't), but there were 1.4million in the greater NO area before the hurricane. So wouldn't that work out to $55,000 to every man, woman and child in the NO area?

I just don't get all the finger pointing. It was a Hurricane. For YEARS people have been saying a direct hit on NO would be terrible. So it happened, it was terrible. But now we got to point fingers?

I know this may sound cold, but IMO, the rebuilding is taking so long as people are waiting. They are waiting to see how much money they can get and when. I actually think rebuilding would start quicker if someone (feds, state, city) just said "we got all the money we are ever going to get, there is no point in anyone suing anyone else since it will take years to work through. Lets make do with what we got and move forward". After all there is more then enough blame to go around.
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Old 03-04-07, 03:27 PM
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the mayor admitting they just made up the number has got to hurt them and any chance of it getting settled out of court
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Old 03-04-07, 03:42 PM
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NO has always been full of crooks - the most vile of which is in the local government. I'm not surprised the overwhelming support by the rest of the country hasn't changed them one bit. They still want to rape the rest of the country for whatever they can get. This is why I didn't donate a single dime except to animal charities - because I knew my taxpayer money would taken from me and transfered to them eventually anyhow.
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Old 03-05-07, 12:32 PM
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New Orleans has learned all they can be taught about how the system works. I, for one, congratulate them.
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Old 03-07-07, 01:53 PM
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I have some family that lives near the area affected by Katrina and they still say parts of it look like a Third World country.

Why they aren't just getting the job done is beyond me.
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Old 04-09-07, 07:51 PM
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I didn't realize it, but not only is NOLA asking for 77b, the state is also asking for 200b in a seperate claims!

Katrina claims stagger corps
By Brad Heath, USA TODAY
New Orleans and Louisiana, swamped when the city's storm protections failed during Hurricane Katrina, demand the federal government pay a damage bill that is more than double the entire cost of the massive Gulf Coast rebuilding effort.
So many claims have been filed against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that the agency needs at least another month even to tally the floor-to-ceiling stacks, spokesman Vic Harris says. Among the more than 70,000 damage claims filed is one for $200 billion by Louisiana's attorney general and another by New Orleans for $77 billion.
Those two alone are more than double the $110 billion Congress approved for Florida and the Gulf Coast after Katrina and two other hurricanes struck in 2005. The amount is more than half of what the military has spent fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Homeowners could seek damages of an additional $200 billion or more, says Jerrold Parker, a lawyer whose firm is trying to organize a class-action suit against the corps.

"Just looking at the place, it's clear that there's tremendous damage," he says. "The fact is, everyone knew the protections were inadequate."

The damage claims allege the corps is to blame for much of the devastation New Orleans suffered when Katrina overwhelmed the levees and flood walls. The water destroyed thousands of houses and emptied whole neighborhoods, some of which are only now beginning to rebuild.

People and governments that want to collect from the corps for that damage are first required to file a two-page claim form.

New Orleans and Louisiana seek broad requests for costs after Katrina but don't list specific damages.

Louisiana's claim contends that the corps built New Orleans' levees improperly and kept open a controversial shipping channel that allowed the hurricane's storm surge to hit the city more directly, says Kris Wartelle, a spokeswoman for the attorney general. Several studies since the storm have concluded storm protections were inadequate. One, prepared for the state this year, found that the corps underestimated the threat from hurricanes and even miscalculated sea level.

Harris says it's unclear whether the government will have to pay. The corps contends that the levees were not solely its responsibility and that the shipping channel it designed did not worsen Katrina's punch. The corps has not paid any claims.

Sorting out the claims almost certainly will take years, though Harris says officials can reject some immediately, either because the applicant filled out the form incompletely in a few cases not at all or because they didn't live in areas that flooded.

"There's a laundry list of things where it's easy to figure out they're not eligible for any money," he says.

The corps must either pay or reject each of the claims. Those whose claims are rejected can take the agency to court. Parker says his firm represents more than 3,000 people who want to sue.
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Old 04-10-07, 12:28 AM
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This could be a good thing.

If we blame the Corp for not installing large enough levies, blame must eventually be traced back to the environmental groups that stopped them in the first place.
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Old 04-10-07, 01:52 AM
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They should sue Bush directly, HE blew up the levies.
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Old 04-11-07, 09:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Draven of it look like a Third World country...
And have looked so for decades, at least.
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Old 04-17-07, 01:47 AM
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ARGH! This is bad news.

$2.8 Million Verdict Against Allstate
Tuesday April 17, 12:51 am ET
By Michael Kunzelman, Associated Press Writer
$2.8 Million Verdict Against Allstate Sends Message to Insurers Battling Other Katrina Cases

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Attorneys say a federal jury that awarded more than $2.8 million to a man who lost his home to Hurricane Katrina sends a strong message to insurers who refused to pay thousands of other homeowners for damage from the storm.

"Insurers should worry about taking any case to a jury," said David Rossmiller, a Portland, Ore.-based attorney who writes a Web journal on Katrina insurance cases and other industry issues.

The U.S. District Court jury decided Monday that Allstate Insurance Co. did not pay Robert Weiss, of Slidell, enough money to cover wind damage to his home. Allstate had claimed that most of the damage was due to storm surge, an event not covered in its policy.

But the jury concluded that the Northbrook, Ill.-based insurer owes Weiss $561,600 for wind damage to his home and its contents, plus another $2.25 million in damages and penalties for not paying the claim quickly enough following the Aug. 29, 2005, storm.

Rossmiller called the award "eyepopping" -- even if a judge later reduces the amount.

Allstate spokeswoman Kate Hollcraft said the company will appeal.

"Allstate is shocked with the jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff. Allstate believes it acted in good faith throughout the entire claims process with the Weiss family," she said.

The verdict -- the first among hundreds of lawsuits that Louisiana policyholders have filed against their insurers in federal court -- gives a boost to thousands of homeowners challenging insurers for refusing to pay their claims.

Randy Maniloff, a Philadelphia-based lawyer who represents insurers and has written about the Katrina litigation, said the jury's decision means the "price of poker goes up" for insurers who are trying to settle out of court with policyholders and avoid costly trials.

"It changes the whole landscape of the cases," he said.

The trial for Weiss' lawsuit against Allstate was similar to several cases that already have been tried in Mississippi, where insurers blamed storm surge for demolishing tens of thousands of homes.

In January, a jury in Gulfport, Miss., awarded $2.5 million in punitive damages to a Biloxi, Miss., couple who sued State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. for denying their claim after Katrina. A judge later reduced that award to $1 million.

Weiss' case was the first of its kind in Louisiana to be decided by a federal jury. The first case tried in New Orleans, also against Allstate, ended abruptly in February when the plaintiffs dropped their lawsuit amid allegations that they misrepresented their claim.

Allstate also accused Weiss of misrepresenting his claim, saying he asked Allstate to pay for a boathouse that was not covered by his policy, but the jury rejected that allegation.

"Our intention was to get what we were owed and to send a message that we would not be intimidated," Weiss said after the verdict was read.

Allstate lawyer Judy Barrasso said in closing arguments that Katrina's winds were not strong enough to do the damage. She said Weiss already had received more than $400,000 in insurance payments -- including $350,000 in federal flood insurance.

"Have you really seen any proof that the damages were in the million-dollar range?" Barrasso asked the jury.

Before the verdict, Judge Sarah Vance told jurors that they must take the $350,000 flood payment into account when determining how much money, if any, Allstate owes Weiss for wind damage.

Maniloff said the jury's $561,600 award for wind damage, coupled with the earlier $350,000 flood payment, suggests that Weiss could be paid nearly the full limits of both his flood policy and homeowner policy.

"It just leaves you scratching your head," Maniloff said. "I thought the judge said you can't double-dip, and this is exactly what they did."

Robert Hartwig, president and chief economist of the industry-funded Insurance Information Institute, said the verdict may not set a precedent for other lawsuits, but it "adds a significant degree of uncertainty for insurers hoping to do business in the state."

In addition to federal flood insurance, Weiss had an Allstate homeowner policy with limits of $343,000 for the dwelling and $240,100 for personal property. The company, blaming the majority of damage on Katrina's storm surge, paid $29,483 for structural damage and $14,787 for additional living expenses.

Richard Trahant, a lawyer for Weiss, argued the house was 17 feet above sea level and that engineering data suggested only 14 feet of surge hit the area. "It never reached the bottom of the house," he said.

Jim Neva, a surveyor and engineer who inspected the house for Allstate, initially told Weiss, who is listed as the policy holder, and his wife, Merryl, that wind may have destroyed the home before the surge of water washed away its remnants.

He later backed off that conclusion, however, and deferred to engineering consultant Craig Rogers of Rimkus Consulting Group. Rogers, who wrote the final report on the home for Allstate, convinced Neva that storm surge demolished the house.

Rogers said he didn't personally inspect the property until after he wrote the report. He said he based his conclusions in part on evidence gathered by other Rimkus engineers -- a practice he described as common. But Trahant questioned the move.

"Why did Allstate elect to rely on the one engineer who never set foot on the property until long after he stamped his report?" Trahant said in closing arguments.

Jeffrey Mika, 30, foreman of the eight-person jury, said jurors were swayed by Allstate's decision to rely on the assessment by an engineer who didn't visit the property until after he wrote his report.

"We didn't feel that Allstate acted in good faith to settle this claim," Mika said.
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Old 04-17-07, 10:39 PM
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Well, start looking for a flood of refugees from NO in the form of insurers. No insurer in their right mind's gonna do business in that state if that award stands.
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