Allstate Insurance settles dispute with Hurricane Katrina victim

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Allstate Insurance settled a post-trial legal dispute with a policyholder who was awarded more than $2.8 million by a federal jury over Hurricane Katrina damage, a company spokesman and a lawyer for the homeowner said Thursday.

Terms of the agreement between Allstate and policyholder Robert Weiss weren't disclosed.

"There's really nothing left to be done in the case except finalize the settlement," said Richard Trahant, a lawyer for Weiss.

On April 16, jurors sided with Weiss and decided that the Northbrook, Ill.-based insurer didn't pay him enough money to cover wind damage to his Slidell home. Allstate blamed most of the damage on Katrina's storm surge, which wasn't covered by its homeowner policies.

After the trial, the company asked U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Vance to order a new trial or reduce the jury's "irrational verdict."

The verdict was the first among the hundreds of lawsuits that Louisiana policyholders filed against their insurers in federal court in Katrina's aftermath.

"The jury's verdict in this case is clearly the product of passion and prejudice and is not supported by the evidence," Allstate attorney Judy Barrassso wrote, adding that the jury's award exceeded the limits of Weiss' policy.

Weiss' attorneys said the evidence supported the verdict. Vance, who presided over the trial, hadn't ruled on Allstate's post-trial motions before the two sides reached their undisclosed agreement.

The jury concluded that Allstate owed Weiss $561,600 for wind damage to his home and its contents, plus another $2.25 million in damages and penalties for not paying the claim quickly enough following the Aug. 29, 2005, storm.

Weiss had a federal flood insurance policy that paid for some of the damage to his home. He also had an Allstate homeowner policy with limits of $343,000 for the dwelling and $240,100 for personal property. Allstate Insurance Co. already had paid him $29,483 for structural damage and $14,787 for additional living expenses.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)