2007 Regular Session
By: Senator(s) Dawkins, Williamson
A CONCURRENT RESOLUTION COMMENDING THE ACTIONS OF CORI AND KERRI RIGSBY FROM OCEAN SPRINGS, MISSISSIPPI, FOR THEIR ASSISTANCE IN THE INVESTIGATION AND SUBSEQUENT LAWSUIT AGAINST THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY FOR FAILURE TO PAY CLAIMS FOR PROPERTY DAMAGE CAUSED BY HURRICANE KATRINA.
WHEREAS, on Monday, August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina, originally designated a Category Four Hurricane, crashed with unrelenting and violent force onto the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast, making landfall at or around Waveland, Mississippi. In one day, the worst natural disaster in our state's history struck us a grievous blow, leaving a 90-mile swath of destruction along the Mississippi Gulf Coast and causing severe damage throughout Central and North Mississippi; and
WHEREAS, after the damage from the hurricane was assessed, there were numerous disputes surrounding insurance claims or allocating wind damage and water damage, where the insurance industry denied homeowners and business property coverage; and
WHEREAS, Mississippi suffered its greatest damage from Hurricane Katrina in sections of coastal communities where some residents were equipped to fight back. Senator Trent Lott and Congressman Gene Taylor were among the plaintiffs and urged Congress to repeal insurers' federal anti-trust exemption and investigate their post-storm claims practices before a national audience. Mississippi's legal system also allowed plaintiff's attorneys to threaten punitive damages, and allowed the state's Attorney General Jim Hood to hire extra lawyers on contingency to press his criminal investigation; and
WHEREAS, in Mississippi, Attorney General Jim Hood opened a grand jury criminal investigation into insurers' claims handling practices just a few weeks after the storm. His probe focused on the wind-versus-flood debate in which some property owners were denied homeowners insurance payouts because insurers chalked the damage up to flood, which is covered by a separate policy that often pays out less; and
WHEREAS, Hood's efforts were aided by Cori and Kerri Rigsby, two sisters from Ocean Springs, Mississippi, who worked for a State Farm contractor that managed teams of adjusters. The "whistle-blowers" left their employment with 150,000 pages of documents that they say shows that State Farm defrauded policyholders by manipulating engineering reports to deny claims. The Rigsby's turned them over to private attorneys, the Attorney General and Dunn Lampton, the U.S. Attorney in Mississippi; and
WHEREAS, using the engineering information suggested by Cori and Kerri Rigsby, Attorney General Jim Hood has obtained concessions from State Farm Fire and Casualty Company regarding how it will handle policyholder claims resolved through an historic settlement agreement. Attorney General Hood has dropped the civil lawsuit against State Farm in his quest to seek full payment of Katrina claims from insurers, but the lawsuit still stands against Mississippi Farm Bureau Insurance, Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Company, and United Services Automobile Association; and
WHEREAS, the result was a well-coordinated assault in Mississippi, as compared to homeowners in Louisiana who were left to their own devices advocates say. There was no high-ranking enforcement official investigating the insurance industry as in Mississippi; and
WHEREAS, especially where many of the victims are low-income groups, the leadership of elected officials and employees such as Cori and Kerri who are willing to testify really matters, and we recognize these efforts on behalf of the citizens of our state:
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE SENATE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES CONCURRING THEREIN, That we do hereby commend the actions of Cori and Kerri Rigsby from Ocean Springs, Mississippi, for their assistance in the investigation and subsequent lawsuits against the insurance industry for failure to pay claims for property damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That this resolution be presented to Cori and Kerri Rigsby and Attorney General Jim Hood and be made available to the Capitol Press Corps.