Thursday, August 02, 2007

New Orleans, It Was Nice Knowin’ Ya

Say goodbye to the Big Easy. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ironically is physically located in New Orleans, just sided with the insurance industry in overturning a case, Vanderbrook et al. v. Unitrin Preferred Insurance Company et al.

The 5th Circuit Court overturned a ruling by U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval Jr., who last November sided with policyholders who argued that language in the policies that excluded water damage from their insurance policies was ambiguous.

The plaintiffs argued that while the word “flood” was an ambiguous term in that it is generally meant to include rise in water due to rain, tide or overflowing of a levee. This was not the case in the events that came in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Water invaded the homes and businesses of 80% of New Orleans because of breaches in man-made levees. Breaches caused by human error, not an act of God.

The Appeals Court, however, sided with the insurers, who can all sigh a collective $1 billion sigh of relief. This decision is most certainly going to weigh in on those who were thinking of rebuilding in the flooded areas. There is no money coming from the insurance companies, and there is, in all likelihood, a grand chance that no money will ever come in the future should New Orleans face another hurricane.

Whatever you think about this decision, whether the plaintiffs had a case or not, this decision is going to have a huge impact on development of coastal areas along the Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard.

And quite an impact on whether New Orleans will be able to survive as a viable city.

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