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Some of windstorm insurer's cases not likely to settle

Although the state's windstorm insurer of last resort hopes to speedily settle many of the Ike-related lawsuits against it, some likely won't go quickly.

Policyholder attorney Tony Buzbee says two lawsuits — each seeking class action status — he filed against the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association on behalf of policyholders aren't on the table to settle. They involve how TWIA handled roof claims and claims on razed homes.

TWIA, created by the state but privately managed, is the windstorm insurer of last resort for homeowners and businesses in coastal counties most vulnerable to hurricanes.

In one suit, Buzbee claims TWIA unfairly failed to consider shingles lifted by wind as damage. It's an issue the Texas Department of Insurance has also sued over. The insurer denies the charges.

The other lawsuit claims TWIA arbitrarily determined 11.2 percent of the damage to homes knocked down to their slabs was caused by wind and then unfairly based payments on that figure.

Buzbee said he hopes to settle other individual cases against the association but plans to push the others because he thinks TWIA should have to readjust every single roof and slab claim, including those never contested.

Jim Oliver, general manager of the insurer, noted TWIA has long stood by how it determined shingle damage and adjusted slab claims, saying it hired independent experts to determine how much damage was caused by wind. The insurer says it used engineering and statistical studies and paid based on whichever study showed a higher amount of wind damage.

The insurer also faces two regulatory investigations. And this week, a Texas Senate committee was tasked with studying TWIA's stability and claims processes before lawmakers reconvene in January 2011.

 

Purva Patel
Houston Chronicle
January 15, 2010