Jury rules against insurance company in first Hurricane Laura case heard in federal court

Published 6:32 am Wednesday, March 16, 2022

By Rita Lebleu

American Press

The first jury trial for a Hurricane Laura case resulted in a victory for the plaintiff, Joey Odem, owner of a commercial property near Petro Point in Lake Charles. Attorney Michael Cox of Cox Cox Filo Camel & Wilson in Lake Charles said the case is just one of the more than 3,000 Hurricane Laura claims filed in federal court.

“This case is important because it sends a message to the other insurance companies that they must follow Louisiana law and honor policy terms,” Cox said.

The verdict was read March 10 at the Lafayette Federal Courthouse. The Lake Charles Courthouse is undergoing repairs after Hurricane Laura made landfall here Aug. 27, 2020.

“The insurance company’s business model expects most people to tolerate their mistreatment. Joey Odom didn’t and neither should any other Southwest Louisiana property owners,” Cox said. “The insurance companies hold on to their money as long as they can so they can make money on the investment, and in doing so, they violate not only the terms of their insurance policy, but they violate Louisiana law, which requires prompt payment of claims.”

Odom was represented by Cox, Somer Brown and Roy Wygant.

“The jury found that the insurance company underpaid him for the loss and that they did pay late,” Cox said.

“The jury found that he was underpaid $200,000,” Cox said.

Since the jury found that Odom was underpaid, the insurance company had to pay penalties, attorney fees and court costs.

Claims may still be filed by property owners against insurance companies. It doesn’t cost to hire an attorney on a contingency basis. When the property owner wins in court or even when the suit is settled, most settlements include an attorney fee component, Cox said. Only residential property owners can be awarded compensation for pain and suffering.

“I think some individuals continue to be reluctant because here in Southwest Louisiana, we are pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps kind of people, and those are the kind of people hesitant to seek the help of a lawyer,” Cox said. “The more these companies are challenged on their mistreatment, the harder it is for them.”