Mississippi Condo Owners Prevail in Wind Insurance Lawsuit

Hurricane Katrina may be just a memory, but five years after the storm, controversy persists over whether insurance policies should cover buildings that took the combined onslaught of hurricane-force winds and devastating storm surge flooding. Last month, homeowners from a condo association in Pass Christian, Mississippi, won a protracted battle with insurance company Lloyd’s of London to collect on a windstorm policy. A jury ruled that Lloyds must pay the Penthouse Owners Association, Inc., $1.8 million for wind damage in the storm, according to a report in the Biloxi Sun-Herald (“ Pass condo owners prevail in Katrina lawsuit against insurer,” by Anita Lee). Katrina’s storm surge scrubbed the condo buildings away, down to the slab foundation — as an aerial photo from the time and ground level images dramatically show. But the condo owners’ association succeeded with its argument that wind had destroyed the buildings before the surge arrived — and that the subsequent destruction by flood did not eliminate the insurance company’s duty to compensate the owners for the damage caused hours earlier by wind. (The association also recovered $3.8 million from a different insurer under a flood insurance policy). As for the condos themselves, they’re back — this time, as modular units. A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the buildings at 1515 East Beach Boulevard in Pass Christian took place in July, 2009, as TV station WLOX reported (“ Penthouse condos rise again in Pass Christian,” by Steve Phillips). Association members said rebuilding was made more difficult by their insurance struggles, however. Ray Deloteus, president of the condo association at the time of Katrina, told the Sun Herald, “We could have rebuilt by 2007 had we had our insurance claim handled properly.” Not there to celebrate the re-opening, or the court victory,, was association member Guy Valvano. Eighty-four years old when Katrina struck, Valvano chose to ride out the storm in his condo and was killed.