E-mails sent by officials of an engineering firm that assessed Hurricane Katrina claims suggest that State Farm Insurance Co. wanted engineers to blame damage on flooding so that it could make minimum settlements with policyholders.And then there’s this from Allstate. Less conclusive, but just as sketchy:
In a reply dated Oct. 18, 2005, Down [an engineering firm official] questioned the insurer's motivations and questioned if there was an ethical problem with State Farm telling the firm what to put in reports. He also suggested that on another occasion, State Farm asked the firm to remove information from a report because "they would then have to settle."
An engineer who testified Tuesday at the trial for a Louisiana couple’s lawsuit against Allstate Insurance Co. said he wrote a report on the plaintiffs’ storm-damaged home without inspecting the property after Hurricane Katrina.Someone did visit the house:
Rogers [the engineer who testified] said he didn’t have any contact with anyone from the Northbrook, Ill.-based insurer before he rewrote Neva’s report.
Rogers, who testified Tuesday during the second day of the trial in federal court, said he wrote reports on several hundred Gulf Coast properties after the Aug. 29, 2005, storm without conducting site inspections for more than half of them.
Allstate attorney Judy Barrasso asked Rogers if it’s “perfectly proper” to write a report on a home without inspecting the property.
“It’s common,” said Rogers, who acknowledged, “Ideally, you want to be able to go out there.”
James Neva, an engineer who inspected the Weisses' Slidell home, initially told the couple that he believed a hurricane-spawned tornado destroyed the house.Rogers’ conclusion may be correct. It just doesn’t look good when the engineer who visited the house defers to an engineer who didn’t, and the end result is Allstate pays out much less.
But Neva, who worked for Rimkus Consulting Group, later backed away from that conclusion and deferred to another Rimkus engineer who wrote the final report on the Weisses' home. The other engineer, Craig Rogers, concluded that Katrina's storm surge was responsible for the majority of the damage.