First Katrina insurance lawsuit set to open in Mississippi

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) - The first insurance lawsuit stemming from Hurricane Katrina begins today in Gulfport, Mississippi.

Police Lieutenant Paul Leonard and his wife, Julie, claim Nationwide Mutual Insurance denied their claim without thoroughly investigating the damage to their house.

Nationwide blamed the damage on water, not wind. The house is several hundred yards from the Mississippi Sound.

The Leonards, who purchased their insurance more than a decade ago, also claim that their insurance agent assured them that they didn't need flood insurance because their policy would cover all hurricane damage.

The trial is expected to be the first legal test for insurers who claim their policies don't cover floods.

The Leonards are represented by attorney Richard Scruggs, who helped secure a landmark, multi-billion dollar settlement with tobacco companies in the late 1990s.