First Baptist Church of LaPlace files federal lawsuit for inadequate storm damage coverage

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 9, 2022

NEW ORLEANS – A LaPlace church has filed a federal lawsuit claiming that its insurer failed to adequately cover millions of dollars in property damage resulting from two devastating weather events last year, including Hurricane Ida.

In the filing, attorneys with the New Orleans office of the Potts Law Firm LLP, representing the First Baptist Church of LaPlace, allege that Church Mutual Insurance Company of Merrill, Wisconsin, violated state law requiring insurers to pay claims within 30 days of proof of loss. The company is foreign-owned, leading to the filing in federal court.

The church was first damaged in an April 2021 windstorm, followed by the even more devastating effects of Hurricane Ida in late August of last year. The 38,000-square-foot facility sustained significant wind and water damage to its roof and interior during Ida, forcing the 150-member congregation to continue holding makeshift worship services in its adjacent Fellowship Hall, a practice which continues today.

Church Mutual adjustors verified the damages in both cases, but payment for the initial April damage was not even received prior to Hurricane Ida, well outside the state-mandated timeframe.

The lawsuit further alleges that Church Mutual was fully aware of the critical damage but grossly underpaid the initial claim, refused to pay an adequate amount to remediate and repair the facility for losses sustained from Hurricane Ida, and incorrectly asserted that much of the damage sustained during Ida was from the April storm.

In addition to the timeline violation, which subjects the company to a penalty of an additional 50% of the total payment due, the lawsuit seeks damages for breach of contract and breach of duty against the insurer.

LaPlace was among the Louisiana communities hardest hit by Hurricane Ida, a category four storm with catastrophic winds of 150 mph, a tie for fifth-strongest hurricane to ever hit the U.S. mainland. The storm also brought heavy rainfall and tornadoes, along with flash and urban flooding and life-threatening storm surges along the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

The lawsuit, filed by the Potts Law Firm LLP, is The First Baptist Church of LaPlace v. Church Mutual Insurance Company, No. 2:22-cv-00884, filed in the United States District for the Eastern District of Louisiana.