Would Jethro Bodine be able to figure out no one in the trailer on March 11, 2006, was watching the Beverly Hillbillies?
Read Toot, Toot Judge Senter – hear that whistle blowing – a Sop and Nowdy tag team post – and see if you agree with us
Those who would so easily dismiss the Cori and Kerri Rigsby as document theives are misguided…
Then, give yourself a screen name and comment (valid email required but not published).
I’m adding this here as the other post is too long. I saw this AP story on yesterday’s developments thanks to our friends over at the New Orleans News Ladder. Our blogroll just grew by one. 🙂 sop
15 thoughts on “State Farm grasping at straws in response to Qui Tam?”
I’ll kick this off Nowdy with this observation.
In the motion for DQ of the Qui tam lawyers State farm makes the argument that Bartimus, Frickleton, Robertson & Gorny’s relationship with Dickie Scruggs rises to the level of a partnership along the lines of the Scruggs Katrina Group. I think the facts will bear out the Scruggs-BFGG relationship was not bound nearly that tightly but it will be a central issue as Judge Senter considers these motions and the argument BFGC should have known about the payment’s to Cori and Kerri Rigsby.
Senter addressed the trailer meeting earlier in detail when he denied State Farm’s original DQ motion in McIntosh. Given the totality of the circumstances we described in Toot, Toot I do not think that argument will hold water but then again I am neither a judge or a lawyer.
Our friends who were slabbed and since settled can not talk about thier cases and find it prudent not to comment at all publically on the remaining litigation. Then again to the man they view the Rigsby sisters as heros as do I, so nothing much new there would be added to the discussion.
I have another very busy day on tap so I’ll sign off until later.
It seems the ruling in the Alabama contempt case against Scruggs negates the DQ on on that basis.
Judge Senter will have the Qui Tam lawyer’s version of the events to consider when he rules this time – and I expect he will find the law followed to the letter.
Busy day here, too, but I’ll be around.
I am not an attorney so forgive the simplistic question I am asking but if Todd Graves resigned before the meeting with the sisters, how does he qualify as a “government offical?” It seems to me he was cutting his governmental strings so he could get a slice of the qui tam settlement pie which he couldnt get as a governmental official.
Maybe this will help. The “trailer meeting” was March 11 and Graves resignation was tendered a little over two weeks later – on the 24th.
According to his resume on the firm’s website, Tony Dewitt teaches Qui Tam for CLU credit – given that and his related writing on the subject including the law journal article on the Qui Tam website, one would expect the Rigsby sister’s legal team to have followed the law to the letter.
We should learn more when the Rigsby sister’s attorneys respond to the various motions submitted yesterday.
Good to hear from you again, mass-a-mess. Sop may add more when he gets back to his office.
I don’t believe whistleblowers blow the whistle for their own benefit. In fact, it is a detriment to them, since they are then fired and out of work and as is the case with the tobacco whistleblower, it ruined his life. To be a whistleblower is actually an heroic thing to do. In fact, look at where the sisters are now. Scruggs was compensating them for their efforts and expertise. They saw what was wrong and were trying to do the right thing. IMOH
I guess the part that threw me was in the post where it said he turned in his resignation the day before the meeting or words to that effect. The next logical question would then be that if the attorneys in question were there for the “law enforcement requirement” why would they later resign? And why didnt the sisters involve Mississippi’s AG or the local Federal Attorney instead of pulling someone in from Missouri? It just doesnt “add up.” Again, I’m not a lawyer or in any way associated with the law but I am having a hard time believing this was anything more than opportunistic behaviour from these women and an immense effort later to try and cover it up. With all due respect ms belle, if the first person you run to with incriminating evidence is an attorney to help with insurance company lawsuits and to work an employment deal for yourself, you are not a whistleblower in my book. I will be the absolute first person to sing their praises if it comes out they actually contacted law enforcement first with this information because NO CORPORATION deserves or earns a PASS for shafting its customers. I don’t think Mr. Scruggs was doing them any favors and if he truly needed their efforts and expertise why did he stop paying them? Again, it just doesnt add up.
Mr Mass-a-mess he tendered his resignation on March 10, 2006 effective for March 24, 2006. My understanding is the Rigsby sisters did turn over those documents to Dunn Lampton as well, though later on after they left EA Renfroe.
Your obsevrations are very good and the questions you ask are valid. I’ll try to get you a detailed answer when I can compose my thoughts.
Mass-a-mess, I was expecting Sop to respond with his composed thoughts but obviously his CPA-at-tax-time schedule didn’t allow for time today – so I’ll let him add to my response as soon as he can.
1. I don’t have any reason to believe there is any significance in the fact that Graves resigned the day before the meeting.
2. As I understand the process, the 1st move a whistle-blower should make is to contact an attorney. However, Fair Claims law is such that the best representation is an attorney with recognized expertise in this area.
Point: The Rigsby sisters went to Scruggs and he recommended the firm – attorneys Tony Dewitt, Chip Robinson, etc.
3. These cases are typically handled on a contingency basis – meaning firms must pick their cases carefully and suggesting the better the firm the more exacting the screening process.
4. Based on what I’ve read, it is likely (emphasis here on likely) the purpose of this meeting was to determine if the Rigsby sisters had a Qui Tam and likely assess the strength of the case as well (emphasis on likely again because the way I understand the process, it is some we may soon learn but should not know at this point).
5. Logic suggests the attorneys from Missouri – who do have recognized expertise in this area were aware the evidence available for their review was on laptop (Dewitt teaches a Qui Tam CLU course according to his resume and has had a related article published in a law journal)
6. It is my understanding that in order for the Rigsby sisters to lawfully produce that evidence, there would need to be a request made by a representative of DOJ – in this case, I’m suggesting that would be Todd Graves asking for a copy of what was on the screen.
7. Again, based on my reading, once an attorney/firm accepts a Qui Tam case, they work with the client to develop the document that must be filed with the US Attorney in the jurisdiction where the activity took place.
8. That appears to have been the case in this situation as the claim and evidence were later submitted to the US Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi.
9. It may be helpful for you to read the Wikki on Todd Graves as it explains the circumstances of his resignation.
In my mind, Mass-a-mess, everything adds up to this point and they did contact “law enforcement” appropriately for the Qui Tam process – the presence of Graves at the trailer meeting was over and above the required and IMHO an indication of the law firm protecting the Rigsby sister’s and the Qui Tam case.
That leaves the issue of their “compensation” – I don’t believe they were “opportunistic” – just realistic. The Qui Tam was going to cost them their jobs and nothing I’ve read suggested they had the personal wealth to go without a job.
Judge Senter’s ruling made his position on Scruggs paying the Rigsby sisters abundantly clear. Given what appears to be great care to do everything required for Qui Tam “by the book”, neither the payment by Scruggs or that he later stopped paying them “adds up” as you said.
The bottom line here is we need to hear/read both sides of this story – mindful that there are two sides to every story and sometimes both are true.
I’ll further add that in it’s filing State Farm disclosed their adjusters make in the 6 figures. I don’t know what the Rigsby sisters made with Renfroe but I suspect from knowing other adjusters it was in the 6 figures, especially with the hours they worked after the storm.
It easy to portray Cori and Kerri Rigsby as money grubbing document theives but the fact is it would have been far easier for them to simply collect their 6 figure paychecks and keep their mouths shut, than lose their jobs and chance of ever working again in the industry by blowing the whistle. In fact my guess would be most people would have chosen the former course of action over the path taken by Cori and Kerri Rigsby.
Now THAT is a great explanation. I will be interested to see how the recent filings and a final decision get reached and what Judge Senter bases his decision on. It seems to me the SF filing that they were not their employees is a large hurdle. Do you see it that way? If this one does get dismissed, how likely is it that the 5th will resurrect the Branch Qui Tam?
I just noticed I used “Robinson” instead of “Robertson” – please note this correction.
Back to you later, Mass-a-mess, on your last questions.
Mr Mass-a-mess I too eagerly await the replies form Anthony Dewitt and the Judge’s final decision. Renfroe’s relationship with State Farm will be a crucial interpretation IMHO, just like the relationship of Dickie Scruggs to the other members of the Scruggs Katrina Group was a deciding factor in their ultimate disqualification.
My own non legal opinion is I don’t think State Farm’s arguments concerning Renfroe will prevail. This much is certain, State Farm is vigorously defending itself.
On Branch it would depend on whether or not what the adjusters dug up is considered “original” as it related to what the Rigsby’s brought up. Certainly the types of evidence are different between the cases and the Branch adjusters really did their homework. Whether that will meet the strict legal standards of the False Claims Act is anyone’s guess. The Fifth Circuit is the most conservative in the country IMHO, which would seem to favor the insurance companies on its face.
Adding a few thoughts after my morning reading –
1. On the 5th Circuit – this quote from the Insurance Law Blog post today:
“It is quite obvious Judge Jones did not fully know what she was talking about — the fuzzy grasp of the terminology in the case, and the substitution with empty buzzwords like “synergy,” is a dead giveaway — but that didn’t diminish her confidence or her willingness to press ahead anyway… I would call it proof of the truth of Will Rogers’ maxim: “It ain’t what you don’t know that hurts you, it’s what you think you know for sure that just ain’t so.”
2. I’d put the Branch decision under the”it’s what you think you know for sure that ain’t so” given the claim was “overbilling” versus the Rigsby’s claim of “underpayment” but given Rossmiller’s comment above, I wouldn’t begin to guess how the 5th circuit might rule (unless some thoughtful clerk takes time to read Tony Dewitt’s law journal article on Qui Tam).
3. Pointing out that one Katrina case – Maxus – was decided under Mississippi law in the US District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
Although the decision was handed down after he was in private practice, Todd Graves was the US Attorney for the Western District of Missouri.
4. I too await the response from the Rigsby sister’s legal team and Judge Senter’s decision – but most of all I await the day when everyone is working together to vigorously rebuild the Coast.
Nowdy can you further expand on Tony Dewitt’s law journal and the Maxus case. These are some of the dots I referred to the other day that I haven’t had time to connect. The connections to western Missouri seem to grow the more we look. I’m gone for several hours.
Will do – look for a post late today…I’ll need to link some documents.
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