The estate of Sylvia Minor of Ocean Springs, MS has been awarded $10 million in punitive damages against USAA Insurance Company for denying their Hurricane Katrina damage claim in bad faith. Attorney Jim Reeves of Reeves and Mestayer served as co-counsel for the plaintiff in this case, and we are very pleased that the jury handed down an 8-figure award to punish the egregious conduct of that USAA displayed.
“This verdict should send a message to insurance companies that in the future when dealing with hurricane losses, the companies must promptly pay the claims that are owed,” Mr. Reeves said in a statement.
Naturally, USAA plans to appeal the verdict, calling the punitive damages that were awarded in this case “excessive”. But the evidence indicated that not only did the insurer wrongfully deny the plaintiff’s damage claims initially, but they also took more than seven years to finally pay certain claims – and they only did so after a lawsuit was filed.
Furthermore, this is far from an isolated incident when it comes to USAA’s bad faith business practices. Although they market themselves as the insurer that is always looking out for our military members and veterans, the records show a disturbing pattern of deceptive and unfair claims practices that date back several years.
This verdict is very timely as it came down just days before Hurricane Ian blasted a large stretch of Southwest Florida. In the aftermath of that storm, insurers like USAA will likely be up to their old tricks.
Hopefully, this verdict will make insurers think twice before they wrongfully deny damage claims filed by homeowners who have already had their lives turned upside down by a devastating hurricane. But if they persist with this type of conduct, firms like Reeves and Mestayer are ready to step in and fight hard to ensure that insurance carriers are held fully accountable for their actions.