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NORMAN and Genevieve Broussard are among the hundreds, maybe thousands, of people in coastal Mississippi who returned to their homes following Hurricane Katrina and found nothing but a foundation. When they filed a claim with their insurer, State Farm, they were told they were out of luck because the loss was caused by storm surge, an excluded peril.

The Broussards decided to get a lawyer and take the matter to court. Last month, Judge L.T. Senter Jr., who sits on the Federal District Court for Southern Mississippi, ruled for them big time. Not only did he issue a directed verdict against the carrier requiring it to pay the entire dwelling and contents loss, which came to $232,292, but he also allowed a jury that had been hearing the evidence to consider the Broussards’ claim for punitive damages. Within hours, the jury awarded them $2.5 million.

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