Citizens settles remaining claims over 2005 storms

GRETNA (AP) — A state-run insurance company of last resort has settled the remaining claims in a class-action lawsuit tied to how it handled claims after hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.
State District Judge Henry Sullivan gave final approval Wednesday to the settlement under which Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp. will pay $4,500 to any remaining claimants. Each claimant will get about $3,000 after one-third is taken out to cover attorneys’ fees.
It is not clear how many people will come forward to collect on the settlement and how much it will cost Citizens, which already paid out $108 million to roughly 18,500 claimants after Sullivan ruled against it last year.
Citizens has budgeted $40 million to handle any claims resulting from the settlement, according to Chief Financial Officer Steve Cottrell.
Sullivan’s 2012 judgment against Citizens worked out to $5,000 per claim, with 40 percent going to attorneys’ fees.
Steve Mauterer, class counsel for the plaintiffs, told Sullivan that the lower settlement amount is in the best interest of the remaining property owners because it wraps up the case after years of litigation.
The lower percentage for attorneys’ fees is intended to “try to put the same amount in everyone’s hands,” he said.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys have said that as many as 40,000 Citizens policyholders had their 2005 hurricane claims mishandled, and early estimates had put the final round of settlement claimants at about 7,500 people.
Sullivan, who has presided over the case since the beginning, said the settlement “is in the best interest of the remaining class members” and called it a just resolution to a “tough fight.”

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