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Corban vs. USAA settles

 The landmark Katrina case, Corban vs. USAA, has settled on the usual "undisclosed terms."

 The case established that wind damage is covered even if water contributes to the loss, a fact insurance companies tried to fight after Hurricane Katrina.

  The Mississippi Supreme Court decision came in October 2009, far too late to help countless policyholders who settled under an erroneous federal ruling that came down much earlier.

   The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals could have certified the question to Mississippi's Supreme Court, which has say over state-governed insurance contracts, but chose not to.

   The federal legal system, in fact, has let down policyholders in more ways than one. Magistrate Judge Robert Walker in particular has allowed insurance companies to seal many documents they have been compelled to turn over to policyholders during trial preparation.

   The companies claim these documents contain "trade secrets" or otherwise privileged information. In some cases, policyholder attorneys agree up front to allow insurance records to be sealed. Less fuss that way.

   And when the case settles, only the parties involved know the terms.

   The public never gets to learn how or why insurance companies decided to fight paying wind claims where tidal surge was involved. The public never gets to learn what those claims were worth at the end of hard-fought legal battles.

    When I first started looking at insurance lawsuits across the country after Katrina, I wondered how insurance companies could continue the same claims denial practices over and over, from state to state.

    After watching the Katrina legal system grind along, I wonder no more. Time and secrecy are weapons insurance companies have become expert at wielding.