The Louisiana Insurance Commissioner has issued Rule 22 for Hurricane Ida which allows policyholders an opportunity to mediate disputes with underwriters for claims up to $50,000. This is a streamlined approach where each side submits a position paper and meets with an assigned mediator at no cost to the insured. Notice of this program and relevant information is available on the Louisiana Department of Insurance website here.

cargo boat
on blue sea near the coast
schiff, container, cargo, meer, blau, bunt, transport, groß, industrie,bulk, kran, handeln, export, fracht, ware, schwer, frachtschiff, kiste, holzkiste, fähre, handelsschiff, schrägansicht, seitenansicht, küste,

Disputes arising in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) following Hurricane Ida can be subject to three bodies of law: maritime law, federal law under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), and state law, whether surrogate federal law under the OCSLA or within territorial waters. Jurisdiction for claims arising in the GOM is generally a federal question under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 subject to the saving to suitors clause in certain maritime-related claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1333(1). Jurisdictional issues can be complicated and fact-based where maritime and non-maritime “services” are “mixed,” as discussed in Baker v. Hercules Offshore, Inc., 706 F.3d 680 (5th Cir. 2013).

The Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), as defined, consists of submerged lands, subsoil, and seabed in a specified zone up to 200 or more nautical miles seaward of the adjacent states’ jurisdiction. The OCSLA, 43 U.S.C. § 1331, et seq., regulating OCS operations extends federal jurisdiction to OCS operations and resources under 43 U.S.C. § 1349(b). Likewise, the OCSLA extends the benefits conferred by the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA) to employees working on the OCS.

Continue Reading Offshore Jurisdictional Issue Primer

3d illustration of house with ckecklist. White background.

As property owners shift their focus to repairing damages from Hurricane Ida, they should not lose their focus when it comes to the less apparent concerns that come with engaging contractors. Entities, like the Louisiana State Contractor Licensing Board, provide a certain level of protection to the consumer; however, caveat emptor (“let the buyer beware”) should still always be in the back of the minds of property owners as they navigate the path to recovery. The checklist below is provided to assist in this process.

Continue Reading Hurricane Ida Checklist for Louisiana Homeowners—Contracting for Repair of Disaster Damage

Hurricane Ida brought strong winds, flooding, and mass destruction along the Louisiana coast. Although the Gulf South is no stranger to hard-hitting storms, each disaster brings a new set of obstacles for property owners and homeowners.

With the recovery process underway, many residents are still struggling to find the resources needed to rebuild or protect their investments. Information on possible funding, temporary housing, and other assistance is available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other organizations. But if you own a flood-impacted property, you may face other significant and perhaps more long-term questions such as: What can you do now to protect the value — including the resale value — of your property?

A key factor in protecting your property value will be how well you can demonstrate to prospective purchasers, appraisers, inspectors, lenders, insurers, and others that the storm-related damage was properly repaired or otherwise addressed and that you took the proper steps to limit post-storm damage.

Although laws differ throughout the Southeast, we suggest that the following steps be taken to help ensure you are protecting your property value:

  • Step 1: Notify Your Insurance Company and FEMA — Involve your insurance and FEMA adjusters in the process as early as possible, ideally before conducting demolition, rebuilding, or remodeling work.
  • Step 2: Prevent Further Damage — Take steps to prevent post-storm damage, such as patching or tarping damaged roofs, boarding up broken windows, and removing and storing salvageable items.
  • Step 3: Document the Damage — Take photos or videos of the damage, and make a list of damaged items.
  • Step 4: Make and Document the Repairs — Air out the property and remove damaged carpet, flooring, sheetrock, and other porous items. Follow the local ordinances, and obtain all required permits when making repairs. Keep a file that includes purchase orders or invoices, permits, agreements with contractors, and similar documents, and maintain a summary of the actions taken.
  • Step 5: Perform Mold Assessment and Remediation — Consider obtaining a mold assessment and, if necessary, mold remediation. Be sure contractors who conduct mold remediation or apply biocides are properly licensed, and retain related documentation in your file.
  • Step 6: Compose a Seller’s Disclosure — Disclose flood, mold, and other issues to prospective purchasers as required by state law and as a matter of good faith.

Additional tips and strategies can be found through the Jones Walker Disaster Preparedness & Recovery blog, including past articles Steps One, Two…Now What Do I Do? Protecting Your Property Value and After the Flood—Strategies for Protecting the Value of Your Home.

Further information is also available at the following regulatory agency links:

In a letter recently issued to Lafourche Parish, LA sales/use taxpayers, the Lafourche Parish local sales/use tax collector Amanda Granier explains that Lafourche Parish has now granted Lafourche Parish local sales/use tax filing extensions to certain dealers/taxpayers impacted by Hurricane Ida.

The Lafourche Parish sales/use tax office was “closed for the foreseeable future” due to Hurricane Ida.

The entire language of the collector’s letter, dated September 16, 2021, is found below:

“Due to the devastation caused by Hurricane Ida and the ongoing state of emergency, Lafourche Parish is granting extensions to certain dealers/taxpayers in impacted areas. Dealers/Taxpayers eligible for sales tax extensions include businesses who have had to close and are no longer able to operate or conduct business in the state and whose home or principal places of business where critical tax records are kept is one of the following parishes:

  • Ascension, Lafourche, St. Helena, Terrebonne, Assumption, Livingston, St. James, Washington, East Baton Rouge, Orleans, St. John the Baptist, West Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Plaquemines, St. Martin, West Feliciana, Iberia, Pointe Coupee, St. Mary, Iberville, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Jefferson, St. Charles, and Tangipahoa.

For businesses that remained operating for all or part of the recovery time in the State of Louisiana but you are having difficulty complying with the deadlines, you may also be eligible for an extension and/or interest and penalty relief. A request for an extension or waiver must be made in writing or electronically to salestax@mylpsd.com or by USPS to Sales Tax Office, Lafourche Parish School Board, P. O. Box 997, Thibodaux, LA 70302. Any grant of waiver or extension is left to the sound discretion of the Collector based upon the individual circumstances of the dealer/taxpayer. Waivers and/or extensions do not apply for any tax that was due before August 26, 2021.”

Importantly, it should be noted that this letter from the Lafourche Parish collector does not apply to all parishes or all corresponding local sales/use taxes in Louisiana. Taxpayers should consult each local tax collector directly to confirm any local sales/use tax filing or payment extension.

For state sales/use tax purposes, the Louisiana Department of Revenue has also now issued Revenue Information Bulletin (RIB) 21-027, which grants an automatic state sales/use tax filing extension and corresponding penalty relief to taxpayers in certain Louisiana areas impacted by Hurricane Ida for August 2021 Louisiana state sales/use taxes that were due to be filed on or before September 20, 2021. Our separate Jones Walker State & Local blog post on the Department’s new RIB is found here.

The Jones Walker State & Local Tax Team will continue to provide additional updates regarding Hurricane Ida relief as they are issued.

Hurricane Ida struck Louisiana on August 29, 2021, the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, as a Category 4 hurricane. The storm blasted Southeast Louisiana as one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the continental United States, knocking out the power grid to all of New Orleans, blowing roofs off buildings, flooding homes and businesses, and even reversing the flow of the Mississippi River.

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, rescuers in boats and high-water trucks brought hundreds of people trapped by Hurricane Ida’s floodwaters to safety, while utility repair crews rushed to restore power in the stifling, summer heat.

Approximately two weeks later, Louisiana found itself in the path of another storm. On September 14, 2021, Hurricane Nicholas rubbed salt into the wounds of the Ida-battered Louisiana when it made landfall as a Category 1 storm along the Texas coastline, before downgrading to a tropical storm and stalling over Louisiana with heavy rains in areas struggling to recover from Ida.  Heavy rainfall from Nicholas forced utility crews and contractors in some areas to stop work and sent residents rushing to protect their homes and businesses.

Although the scale of Ida’s damage was perhaps unexpected, one likely could have predicted in early 2021 that at least some portion of the Gulf Coast would be struck by a hurricane that year. The reality is that constructing in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, or Florida in July, August, or September carries with it the very real risk that your construction site will be struck by a hurricane or tropical storm. The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season has already seen 14 named systems, including five hurricanes, three of which have been major hurricanes of Category 3 strength or higher.

Continue Reading When Force Majeure is for Sure: The Business of Construction in Disaster-Prone Areas

A significant number of oil spills have been reported in the wake of Hurricane Ida’s passage over the Gulf of Mexico and south Louisiana. Does a major hurricane like Ida qualify as an “act of God” under the Oil Pollution Act so as to provide a defense to spill liability? This post examines the act of God defense under the Oil Pollution Act.

Continue Reading Hurricane Ida and OPA’s Acts of God

On September 9, 2021, President Biden issued his “COVID-19 Action Plan” that orders OSHA to establish a rule to mandate COVID-19 vaccines or weekly testing for all employers with 100 or more employees. The plan also includes an Executive Order with similar requirements for certain federal contractors. While many questions remain regarding what the final rules will look like, there are steps that companies can take now to prepare. In this live webinar, members of Jones Walker’s Labor and Employment practice group will explain what these executive orders may mean for you and will provide a game plan that can be implemented to get ready.

When: Thursday, September 16, 2021 | 3:00 p.m. CDT

Presenters:

Webinar Registration Details: Registration is complimentary. Click here to register for the webinar.

Questions? Brett Napier | bnapier@joneswalker.com

Following the devastating landfall of Hurricane Ida, one lingering question is whether the effects of this Gulf storm will be sufficient to excuse a delay or failure to perform. Many parties in oil and gas, oilfield service, and energy infrastructure that have been affected by the storm utilize Texas law in their service contracts, and in most cases, these parties will find some level of coverage under the terms of the force majeure provisions in their contracts.

Indeed, a number of oil and gas industry giants have already declared force majeure in their business dealings over the past couple of weeks — Royal Dutch Shell, the largest oil producer in the Gulf of Mexico; offshore drilling contractor Noble Corporation; and OxyChem, of Occidental Petroleum, to name a few. Whether the storm will be sufficient to excuse any delay or failure to perform will depend largely on the circumstances of the delay or failure to perform and the exact language of their force majeure clauses.

Continue Reading Force Majeure Under Texas Law in the Aftermath of Hurricane Ida

On August 27, 2021, with Hurricane Ida’s impact on South Louisiana imminent, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) issued a statewide Declaration of Emergency. The Declaration provided guidance on a number of expected impacts of the storm, including “upset” of Louisiana Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits by wastewater treatment plants, the influx of solid waste disposal at landfills, the need to repair permitted facilities to commence operations, and the extension of deadlines. The original Declaration was set to expire on September 26, 2021. On August 28, LDEQ issued the First Amended Declaration of Emergency, which was substantively identical to the first and also applied to the entire state.

Continue Reading LDEQ’s Hurricane Ida Emergency Declarations: What Do They Cover?