One Year After Hurricane Laura, Louisiana Plaintiffs Rush to Meet One-Year Insurance Filing Deadline in Federal Court
In August 2021, a total of 774 civil insurance lawsuits were filed in federal court in the Western District of Louisiana. Most of them—706—were filed in Lake Charles, a community devastated by Hurricanes Laura and Delta in 2020 as well as by flooding, ice storms, and the COVID-19 over the past year. The Western District of Louisiana had already received 2,194 insurance claims in FY 2021, more than any other district in the country, which has helped make the number of insurance filings this year the largest in a decade. Even more insurance lawsuits have been filed in state court.
The remarkably high volume of new federal insurance lawsuits can be attributed to the fact that many insurance contracts in the area include a one-year filing deadline. Hurricane Laura hit the region on August 27, 2020, and as the one-year anniversary approached, attorneys and plaintiffs with outstanding claims rushed to file suit before the one-year deadline passed. The high volume of hurricane-related litigation has also prompted the federal court to create a special process for resolving cases expeditiously. But with the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Delta approaching on October 9, another influx of insurance filings is likely.
Figure 1. Monthly Insurance Civil Filings Over the Past Five Years in the Western District of Louisiana
(August 2016-August 2021)(Click for larger image)
Insurance suits filed in August were not distributed evenly throughout the region. The Western District of Louisiana has offices in Lake Charles (Calcasieu Parish), Lafayette (Lafayette Parish), Alexandria (Rapides Parish), Monroe (Ouachita Parish), and Shreveport (Caddo Parish). Of the cases filed in August, 706 (or 91 percent) were filed in Lake Charles. Due to damage sustained by the federal building in Lake Charles, the court has relocated to Lafayette and has yet to be restored. Table 1 below shows the number of insurance claims filed in federal court in each office in August 2021 and in FY 2021 through the end of August.
The high number of insurance lawsuits filed in the Western District of Louisiana as well as the Southern District of Florida contribute to the overall high number of insurance cases nationally, which has already reached 13,230 with one month left in the fiscal year—the highest number of such lawsuits in a decade. Figure 2 shows the number of filings in federal court for insurance suits from FY 2008 to August 2021, with one month still remaining in the fiscal year. Table 2 shows the ten federal district courts with the highest number of insurance lawsuits filed in August 2021. Figure 2. Insurance Civil Filings in All Federal Courts (FY 2012-2021).
Figure 2. Insurance Civil Filings in All Federal Courts
(FY 2012-2021)(Click for larger image)
 The following article by Zahra Hirji and Brianna Sacks at BuzzFeed provides a recent portrait of the devastation experienced by the Lake Charles community. https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/zahrahirji/lake-charles-hurricane-disaster-recovery-climate-change
 Judge James D. Cain's orders regarding hurricane litigation can be found here: https://www.lawd.uscourts.gov/hurricane-litigation.
 At the time of this report, the Western District of Louisiana website (https://www.lawd.uscourts.gov/) says, "The Lake Charles area sustained extensive damage due to Hurricane Laura, including the Edwin F. Hunter, Jr. Courthouse. The courthouse is closed for the foreseeable future. All court operations have been temporarily moved to the Lafayette Federal Courthouse."