NBC reports State Farm ruling as little guy victory
Ken Shepherd of the Business & Media Institute points out that NBC’s coverage of a $2.5 million ruling against insurance company State Farm was much different than how it was covered by other media such as the Associated Press and New York Times.
Shepherd wrote that NBC anchor Brian “Williams told viewers of the January 11 program about ‘A big legal victory today for a Biloxi, Miss., couple who sued State Farm Insurance for refusing to pay’ their Hurricane Katrina damage claim. The ruling could prove helpful to ‘hundreds of other victims in that region’ who could ‘benefit as a result,’ the anchor insisted. All told, Norman and Genevieve Broussard walked out of court with nearly $3 million, Williams added.
“But Williams failed to tell viewers that most of that award was $2.5 million in punitive damages, or that the Broussards ‘wanted State Farm to pay for the full insured value of their home plus $5 million in punitive damages,’ as Garry Mitchell of the Associated Press reported on January 11 (a story which appeared in The Washington Post the following day).
“Even pared in half from their initial request, the punitive damages award would be ‘distressing’ for insurers, economist Robert Hartwig of the Insurance Information Institute (III) told Mitchell. ‘It adds even more cost and more uncertainty to the other problems that already exist in the Mississippi homeowners insurance market,’ said Hartwig.
“Whatâ€™s more, the ‘jury decision could also lead policyholders to conclude that instead of settling’ out of court that ‘they should hold out in the hope that a jury would award them millions of dollars in punitive damages,’ New York Times reporter Joseph Treaster wrote in the January 12 paper, citing Philadelphia attorney Randy Maniloff.
“Also missing from Williamsâ€™ report was the fact that the vast majority of insurance claims from the devastating hurricane have already been settled.”
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