Insurance Mediation Program
Not really part of the mediation program, but of significant interest.
The letter from the Commissioner of Insurance to the Governor of MS regarding the crisis with storm insurance rates and the Wind Pool.
Mediation of Katrina cases ordered
By Michael Kunzelman, Associated Press Writer October 26, 2006
GULFPORT, Miss. --David Rideout braced for a grueling court battle when he sued Allstate Insurance Co. for denying his claim after Hurricane Katrina destroyed his home on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Rideout was one of the first participants in an experimental mediation program designed to ease the crushing load of lawsuits spawned by last year's epic storm, which damaged or destroyed more than 250,000 homes in Louisiana and Mississippi.
With hundreds of Katrina lawsuits clogging his docket, U.S. District JudgeL.T. Senter Jr. has ordered several dozen plaintiffs and their insurers to sit down with a mediator and try to resolve their differences, or face "appropriate sanctions."
Settlements were reached in seven of the first 17 cases to go to mediation, including Rideout's two weeks ago. Encouraged by those results, Senter last week ordered mediation for 57 more cases.
Senter, who presided over the first trial of a Katrina insurance claim, sided with insurance companies in that case when he ruled in August that standard homeowner's policies cover damage from wind but not rising water.
Insurers have refused to pay for billions of dollars in damage from Katrina's wind-driven storm surge.
The next batch of trials is scheduled to start early next year, with several judges from other districts joining Senter in presiding over the cases. In the meantime, Senter has solicited advice from attorneys on the best way to resolve hundreds of these cases in a "just, speedy and inexpensive" manner.
Chip Merlin, whose Tampa, Fla.-based Merlin Law Group has had more than two dozen Katrina cases ordered into mediation, said the process can only help his clients get the money they deserve.
"Our clients want to get on withtheir lives, get their businesses back in business and get their homesrebuilt," Merlin said. "They don't want this to drag out."
Other attorneys are not as supportive. Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, whose legal team is suing insurers on behalf of hundreds of policy holders, has urged Senter to try cases in groups instead of individually. Mediation "has no teeth in it," he added. "If they were going to pay these claims," Scruggs said of insurers, "they would have done it already."
Many homeowners who are locked in disputes with their insurers but have not sued have agreed to mediation through a program sponsored by Mississippi's insurance commissioner. As of Oct. 16, 82 percent of those voluntary 3,372 mediation cases have resulted in settlements, according to the commissioner's office.
Insurance companies appear to support the process. An Allstate spokesman said mediation is "less adversarial, time-consuming and costly than litigation." A spokesman for State Farm Insurance Co. called it a "rapid approach to reaching mutual agreement."
Rideout, 50, said he was prepared to "go all the way" and wait months for his case to be tried, but he is grateful for the chance to move on with hislife.
"It was less emotional than I expected," he said of the negotiations,which were held at a federal courthouse in Gulfport. "It was strictlydollars and cents."
© Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material maynot be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Over 1,000 Cases In Mississippi Hurricane Katrina Mediation Program Settle Minimum of 160 Conferences Being Held Per Week
From: State Insurance Commission Filed 7/20/06 GCN
Jackson -Commissioner of Insurance George Dale announced today that of the 1,338 mediation conferences scheduled prior to July 14, 2006, in the Mississippi Hurricane Katrina Mediation Program, 1,112 have settled. Dale also announced that the American Arbitration Association (AAA), the program administrator, has moved the program's mediation conferences into larger facilities on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg and is now scheduling a minimum of 160 mediations a week.
Of the number of conferences scheduled thus far, 524 cases have settled prior to their scheduled conference and 588 have settled at conference. There have been 226 impasses. A total of 2,677 requests for mediation had been filed by July 14, the program's success rates stands at 83%.
"The continued and growing success of this program has far exceeded our expectations. I commend all of our mediators for the excellent job they are doing. I would again encourage anyone who has not signed up for mediation to consider doing so today. Mediation is a simple and basic process that is FREE to the policyholder, "said Dale.
Dale added that while mediation has helped a great number of people he is aware that mediation will not work for everyone and for those persons for whom mediation is unsuccessful he encourages them to pursue their case with an attorney of their choosing.
The Mississippi Insurance Department Hurricane Katrina Mediation program serves as a non-adversarial, non-binding, alternative dispute resolution procedure designed to facilitate the resolution of claims as quickly and fairly as possible. A policyholder may request a mediation conference in one of four ways:
* By writing the Administrator at:
American Arbitration Association
Attn: MS Insurance Mediation
13455 Noel Road, Suite 1750
Dallas, Texas 75240
* By calling the Administrator at: 1-800-426-8792
* By faxing a request to the Administrator at 972-702-0173
* By contacting the Administrator on-line at MSinsmediation@adr.org.
Consumers are reminded that all administrative and mediator fees for the first mediation conference will be paid by the insurance companies. There will be no costs to the policyholders. The parties may bring individuals to the conference that are knowledgeable about the issues such as adjustors, appraisers, and contractors. Either party may be represented by legal counsel. If the parties reach a settlement at the mediation conference, the policyholder will have three business days to rescind the settlement agreement as long as they have not cashed any check issued by the insurance company as a result of the settlement. After three business days, if the policyholder has not rescinded, the settlement will become final.
For more information on the Mississippi Mediation Program visit the MID website at www.doi.state.ms.us