With arrival of the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, many recovery issues still remain in South Louisiana. Katrina also presented a number of novel legal challenges, some of which also remain. In particular, a basic but important question with far reaching consequences is unresolved: may property owners, five years after the hurricane, still bring a lawsuit against their insurance company for damages caused by Katrina? The answer to that question will have a significant impact on the residents and courts of Louisiana, as thousands of insurance coverage suits were recently filed following a few state court appellate decisions from one appellate district that suggested the time for property owners to bring their cause of action was suspended by the filing of broad based putative class actions against the insurance industry. Fortunately, the highest court in Louisiana will likely answer that question sometime within the next three to six months in the pending case of Taranto v. Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corporation. The Louisiana Supreme Court recently accepted writs that squarely present the issue of whether or not the filing of certain putative class actions in the Eastern District of Louisiana in August of 2007 served to suspend prescription for all putative class members, thereby extending the time to file a lawsuit against an insurer. Central to the answer to this question is the determination of whether the filing of a putative class action can serve to interrupt a contractual limitation period. Underscoring the importance of this issue, several amicus briefs have been filed by individual insurers and insurance industry associations, as well as the local trial lawyers association, in the Taranto Supreme Court proceedings.
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