Recent arguments in a Mississippi Supreme Court case offer proof that private insurers are improperly pushing storm damage claims from their books to the government-backed flood insurance program, Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Bay St. Louis, said in a telephone interview.
“It confirmed, under oath, what we have been saying all along: that the taxpayers got stuck with paying bills that the insurance industry should have paid,” said Taylor, who has long maintained that it’s a conflict of interest for insurers to be responsible for handling homeowner policies and flood policies for the same property.
In a five-page letter released this week, he made a similar point to U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who is ultimately responsible for the flood program and opposes Taylor’s efforts to expand it to cover wind damage.
Taylor said he is scheduled to meet with her next week.
Under questioning in last month’s high court hearing, Christopher Landau, a lawyer for the Nationwide company, conceded that the Ohio-based insurer would pay nothing on a storm claim if as little as 5 percent of the damage were attributable to flooding instead of wind, according to a transcript released by Taylor’s office.
Charles Copeland, a lawyer for USAA, a Texas-based financial services company and insurer, did not go as far as Landau but said that a policyholder would not be entitled to collect if the storm damage were due to “the combined concurrent force of wind and water.”