The first jury trial for a Hurricane Laura case resulted in a victory for the plaintiff, Joey Odem, owner of 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 more than 3,000 Hurricane Laura claims filed in federal court.
“This case is important because it sends a message to other insurance companies that they must follow Louisiana law and honor the terms of the policy,” 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 on August 27, 2020.
“The insurance company’s business model expects most people to tolerate their abuse. Joey Odom didn’t and no other homeowner in southwest Louisiana should,” Cox said. “Insurance companies hold onto their money for as long as they can so they can make money on the investment, and in doing so they are not only violating the terms of their insurance policy, but they are violating the 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 paid late,” Cox said.
The main hurricane damage to the Odom building was to the roof, which resulted in water damage throughout. Scottsdale Insurance Company paid Odom $225,000 on time. Before trial, Odom received an additional $1.8 million.
“The jury found he was underpaid by $200,000,” Cox said.
With the jury finding that Odom was underpaid, the insurance company had to pay penalties, attorneys’ fees and court costs.
Claims can still be filed by owners against insurance companies. It costs nothing to hire a lawyer in an emergency. When the owner wins in court or even when the lawsuit is settled, most settlements include an attorney’s fee component, Cox said. Only owners of residential buildings can obtain compensation for pain and suffering.
“I think some people continue to be reluctant because here in southwest Louisiana, we’re being pulled by yourself.