U.S. District Judge L.T. Senter Jr. ruled that a Mississippi Gulf Coast couple cannot collect damages from storm surge caused by Katrina because Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co.’s policies do not cover wind-driven water damage.
Senter Jr. said Paul and Julie Leonard of Pascagoula could be compensated for damage that they could prove was caused by high winds, however.
“Almost all the damage to the Leonard residence is attributable to the incursion of water,” Senter wrote in the 13-page decision.
Senter’s ruling could set a precedent for hundreds of other court challenges to the insurance industry for denying billions of dollars in claims after the Aug. 29 hurricane ravaged the coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi.
Although Senter ruled that Nationwide’s policies do not cover damage from storm surge, the judge also concluded a key policy provision the company has used to deny coverage is ambiguous.