Property owner sues U-Haul over belongings stored during Katrina

Andrea Dearden Aug. 26, 2010, 5:53am

An Orleans Parish woman has filed a lawsuit against the storage company that allegedly sold belongings she was forced to leave behind during Hurricane Katrina.

Carolyn Johnson filed a lawsuit against U-Haul of Louisiana and Western Republic Insurance Co. Aug. 24 in Orleans Parish District Court.

Johnson says she began renting a storage unit at the U-Haul facility on St. Claude Avenue in New Orleans in July 2005. According to court documents, Johnson signed a month-to-month lease agreement for the unit she used to store furniture and clothes.

Johnson says she made a rental payment in August 2005. Less than two weeks later, New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Johnson says she was stranded and unable to get to the U-Haul facility to remove her property. The unit was flooded during the storm.

On Sept. 5, 2005 Johnson says she evacuated New Orleans to Carrollton, Texas where she stayed until March 2006. Once back in New Orleans, Johnson says she went to the storage unit but found the facility was still closed.

In 2007, Johnson says she filed a claim with Republic Western Insurance Company, requesting compensation for lost property. Johnson says she began negotiating with Republic Western and U-Haul earlier this year and learned U-Haul had allegedly auctioned off property in the storage unit to pay for the $2015.25 Johnson allegedly owed for rent.

Johnson says she has attempted to negotiate a settlement with the two companies but says they have refused to respond.

Johnson accuses U-Haul and Republic Western Insurance of negligence for failing to settle her property damage claim in a timely manner and for removing her property from the storage unit without warning and without permission. She also accuses the companies of a breach of contract for failing to insure her property as provided in the contract. Johnson claims she has suffered mental anguish and distress as a result of this dispute.

Johnson is seeking unspecified damages, court costs and attorney fees. Attorney David L. Coleman II, of New Orleans, is representing her.

Orleans Parish District Court Case No. 2010-8584

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