Federal judge in Louisiana approves hurricane lawsuit plan

Louisiana

FILE – In this Sept. 12, 2018 photo provided by NASA, Hurricane Florence churns over the Atlantic Ocean heading for the U.S. east coast as seen from the International Space Station. Astronaut Alexander Gerst, who shot the photo, tweeted: “Ever stared down the gaping eye of a category 4 hurricane? It’s chilling, even from space.” (Alexander Gerst/ESA/NASA via AP)

LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) — A federal judge in western Louisiana has approved a plan on how to settle thousands of lawsuits expected to be filed against insurance companies over damage from a pair of hurricanes that hit the region six weeks apart.

Insurance companies and the parties who sue them will have to share information with each other as quickly as possible and then meet — online or on the phone if they agree — within a month of the deadline to share information and discuss a possible settlement, U.S. District Judge James D. Cain Jr. wrote in his order.

If the two sides can’t agree on a settlement, the case will go to mediation, Cain wrote in the order obtained by The American Press.

Anyone involved in any hurricane damage case who wants to opt out of the process will have to file motions with a judge.

The process is similar to what judges in Texas used after Hurricane Harvey and New York used after Superstorm Sandy.

Hurricane Laura came ashore near Cameron Parish on Aug. 27, and Hurricane Delta hit the same area six weeks later. The storms are estimated to have done more than $14 billion in damage to west Louisiana and eastern Texas.

Hurricane Laura also heavily damaged the Edwin F. Hunter Jr. U.S. Courthouse in Lake Charles, which may have to be torn down and rebuilt, Cain said.

“The devastation in the parishes of the Lake Charles Division, including to the courthouse itself, is anticipated to interfere with the timely handling of this litigation,” Cain wrote in his order.

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