A Louisiana attorney said he has filed a prospective class action against American International Group on behalf of AIG policyholders with Hurricane Katrina damage whom the company has failed to assist.
Ray Orrill, said he brought suit yesterday in Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans in its relocated office in Gonzalez, La. on behalf of Tony Swain Orrill his wife from whom he is legally separated
The action, against New York-based AIG and its subsidiary, Audubon charges that the company has failed to help its policyholders in need of assistance after the hurricane. The filing was announced by the Americans for Insurance Reform group in New York.
AIG and Audubon are underwriters and service providers of Louisiana Citizens Fair Plan (FAIR), the insurer of last resort for people in New Orleans and the surrounding area.
The class action suit is on behalf of Louisiana’s FAIR plan policyholders, whom Mr. Orrill said number about 400,000 people.
The suit alleges that AIG has failed to provide any way for its policyholders whose homes have been damaged to initiate a claim or reach its offices to find out how to file, or to provide temporary disaster relief provided under their policies.
Mr. Orrill said his wife’s house in
Covington, La., a rural area on the opposite side of Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, was struck by trees, making it inaccessible and that she is currently without income.
He said she had made 70 telephone calls to the company and had been unable to reach a live person to file her claim with.
“It is outrageous that she, and so many others whose homes were severely damaged in the storm, cannot even get through to their insurers, much less get relief from them. Someone had to take a stand,” said Mr. Orrill.
According to the attorney another insurer, Allstate, provided his wife with a FAIR claim form as a courtesy, after failing to get any response from AIG. She submitted it to AIG almost thirty days ago and has not received a response, he said.
However, a call today to Audubon’s hurricane line 877-281-4801 in Atlanta was immediately answered by an operator who said the firm was mailing out $1,500 checks to policyholders who give the insurer an address to send it to and fax a copy of their driver’s license for identification.
A call to an AIG spokesman was not immediately returned. In the past the company has said it does not discuss pending legal actions.
Americans for Insurance Reform said they learned of Ms. Orrill’s situation when she called the hotline it set up to assist Katrina victims when they encountered obstacles to receiving assistance from their insurers.
According to AIR co-founder and spokesperson Joanne Doroshow, “This is the worst case that we have seen of a complete failure of an insurance company to respond to the immediate and dire situation of its Katrina policyholders.
“Many FAIR policyholders were struggling economically before the storm hit, and some are now reaching the point of severe impoverishment due to AIG’s failure to help them. Many have still not received the temporary living expenses they are entitled to under their policies.”
Mr. Orrill said his wife had been given some funds by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Ms. Doroshow said that over a month after Katrina, “AIR’s hotline is still receiving calls from people who cannot reach AIG insurance adjusters.
“One woman whose home was devastated reports she’s been completely unable to reach any AIG representative to request temporary funds or a visit from an adjuster. Another caller says she’s been passed around from number to number and AIG has been largely unresponsive to her.”
Mr. Orrill said his wife had complained to the Louisiana Insurance Department and was told, “You’re one of many. Be patient.”