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US appeals court finds Nationwide policy clause unambiguous in Katrina case

[JURIST] A panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] ruled Thursday that the language used in policies by Nationwide Insurance [corporate website] was not "ambiguous" [opinion, PDF] about whether damage caused by combinations of wind and water is covered under a policy that only lists one of the two. Although Nationwide defeated a lawsuit [ruling, PDF; order and judgment, PDF; JURIST report] brought by Pascagoula Mississippi homeowners Paul and Julie Leonard alleging that Nationwide should pay for water damage to their homes from Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive], the insurance company pursued an appeal to clarify that the "anti-concurrent causation provision" was unambiguous. The distinction was important as ambiguous terms in insurance policies are normally resolved in favor of the policyholder, and the clause could become important in a number of other pending cases involving the company.

A lawyer representing the Leonards, as well as a number of other policyholders, told AP the couple will appeal, even though the decision's effect is limited because most of the cases involve damage "caused exclusively by wind before any water arrived." AP has more.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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