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South Mississippi Living 4/07

Friday, January 18, 2008

Engineer: Tornado destroyed house

Published January 19, 2008

GULFPORT -- Hours before Hurricane Katrina's storm surge arrived, the Henderson Point home of David and Marilyn Aiken had been hit by a tornado and was long gone, forensic engineer Charles Ivy told the court Thursday morning.

He agreed reluctantly under questioning by Greg Copeland, attorney for USAA Casualty Insurance Co., that the surge would have been enough to destroy the house if the house were still there.

The report Ivy prepared to back up his findings went under the microscope with intensive questioning by Copeland, who lost patience with the witnesses' often rambling responses and complained to U. S. District Judge L.T. Senter Jr., "He is not responding in any way."

"Repeat the question," Senter instructed.

The Aikens, represented by George W. Healy IV, are suing USAA and Rimkus Consulting Group Inc., which was employed by USAA, for conspiring to defraud them. They seek full payment of their $680,000 homeowner-insurance policy with USAA, which paid them $178,000.

Earlier testimony came from Rimkus engineers. One inspected the Aikens' property and the other later made changes to that report without communicating with its author, which is against the company's policy.

Rimkus attorney David Ward read verbatim from Ivy's pretrial statement that he got data for his report from a preliminary storm model, and questioned Ivy's reasons for not updating it when better data became available as time went on.

Healy's next witnesses were to be Rimkus employee Paul Coleman and USAA employee David Rummel.

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