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Insurer to settle with 34 Miss. homeowners over Katrina claims

NEW ORLEANS -- Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Co. has agreed to settle out of court with 34 policyholders in Mississippi who sued the insurer over damage to their homes from Hurricane Katrina, a lawyer for the policyholders said Tuesday.

Terms of the agreement between the MetLife (NYSE: MET) subsidiary and the homeowners are confidential, said Zach Scruggs, an attorney for the policyholders.

Scruggs, part of a legal team that has brokered settlements for about 900 homeowners who sued insurance companies over Katrina damage, said he is confident that all 34 policyholders will accept the deal offered by Warwick, R.I.-based Metropolitan Property and Casualty.

"We hope to begin disbursing settlement checks next week," he said.

MetLife spokesman David Hammarström said in a written statement that "the terms of the settlement are confidential and subject to client approval, but we are confident that all of our clients will accept the settlement."

The Scruggs Katrina Group, led by Zach Scruggs' father and law partner, Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, announced last week that Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. has agreed to settle out of court with more than 200 policyholders on Mississippi's Gulf Coast.

State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. reached a similar deal with Scruggs' clients in January, agreeing to pay about $80 million to settle with up to 640 policyholders who sued the Bloomington, Ill.-based insurer after the Aug. 29, 2005, hurricane.

About 100 State Farm policyholders have signed on as Scruggs Katrina Group clients since January's agreement. The legal team also has about 280 cases against Allstate Insurance Co., 40 against United Services Automobile Association and more than 50 against Mississippi Farm Bureau Insurance Co.

"We're working hard to successfully resolve all of the cases, either through settlement or trial," Zach Scruggs said.

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