Sulphur woman says insurance commissioner ‘humiliated’ her

John Guidroz

Robin Baudoin said she was stunned and humiliated after reading Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon’s letter to the editor, published in Sunday’s edition of the American Press. Donelon wrote that Baudoin did not appear to have filed a complaint with the Department of Insurance on the claim for her hurricane-damaged Sulphur home. She said she filed a complaint Jan. 6 and later got an emailed confirmation letter from Donelon the same day.

“I cannot believe they would have done this without some effort to contact me,” Baudoin said of Donelon’s letter. “It made me look like a liar. I feel like he kicked me while I was down.”

The American Press first spoke with Baudoin in January about how Hurricane Laura left her two-story home in ruins, coupled with the frustration at her insurance company’s slow pace in getting her claim settled. Less than two weeks ago, she testified before the House Insurance Committee in Baton Rouge in support of House Bill 469 by Rep. Ed Larvadain, D-Alexandria.

After her testimony, Jeffrey Zewe, with the Louisiana Insurance Department, approached Baudoin and asked if she filed a complaint with them. She mentioned filing a complaint in January and getting Donelon’s confirmation letter. She said he then asked for the spelling of her last name.

“That’s all he asked me,” she said. “He appeared out of nowhere and then disappeared.”

Since then, Baudoin said she hasn’t heard from Donelon or any other insurance department staff member.

“I’ve had no email, nothing from their office,” she said. “It’s like radio silence.”

Eric Holl, executive director of Real Reform Louisiana, said Donelon choosing to write and submit the letter without first reaching out to Baudoin is unacceptable.

“The incompetence on display from the Department of Insurance is pretty striking,” he said. “Their complaint process and management of complaints is so poor and disorganized, they don’t know who has filed a complaint and who hasn’t.”

Three months ago, Baudoin said State Farm, her insurance company, stopped paying the $950 monthly rent on the garage apartment where she has been living since Laura, along with the $273 monthly fee on a storage unit.

The costs of the apartment and storage unit were covered under her insurance policy and were related to loss of use from the hurricane, she said.

“They had been paying that with no problem, then it just stopped,” Baudoin said.

Baudoin said she was left with no choice but to file a lawsuit in federal court. The suit was filed May 5, one day after her testimony before the House Insurance Committee.

“The next few months are going to be interesting, but that’s the way it is,” she said.

Since filing the lawsuit, Baudoin said the woman she is renting the apartment from is waiving her monthly rent. She said she continues to pay utilities.

Two months earlier, Baudoin decided to demolish her decimated home, as it was becoming a safety hazard in the neighborhood, she said. Oddly enough, she continues to pay insurance to State Farm on the home, which was paid off before Hurricane Laura hit.

“They’re still taking it out of my bank account, about $200 a month,” Baudoin said. “I hear that’s happening to other people, too.”

Within the last two months, Baudoin said received an insurance payment of $100,000. She said that doesn’t come close to her $600,000 policy and is well short of the $400,000-$500,000 an architect and structural engineer said was needed to repair her damaged home.

For now, Baudoin is waiting to see what comes of the lawsuit.

“Needless to say, I don’t have much of a social life right now,” she said, laughing. “I’m still in purgatory. That’s what it is, just hanging on.”

A spokesperson for the Louisiana Insurance Commissioner’s Office declined to comment for this story.

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Robin Baudoin rode out Hurricane Laura inside a bathroom at her home at 2046 Louise St. in Sulphur. She said she could hear her roof being torn off during the storm and her chimney being slammed in the courtyard.

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