Round 1 goes to Jones – Judge’s ruling sets up Round 2 (updated)

The Daily Journal reports Judge Coleman applied sanctions to SKG – striking their Motion for Arbitration and Answer to the Complaint filed by Jones. Only two of the four other firms – Scruggs and Barrett – were named in the Complaint; however, an earlier ruling from Judge Coleman held all member firms accountable including Nutt -McAllister and Lovelace.

Now for the big news in Coleman’s ruling today –

Coleman said Wednesday that while he agrees to a default judgment in the matter, which means he agrees with the Jones allegations, he does not accept every point in the legal complaint as true.

Given what he heard yesterday, the big news is not all that surprising; but, Coleman did not indicate the points he questioned.

As Sop commented to the post I put up yesterday, the guilty pleas of Scruggs, Scruggs, and Backstrom can not be ignored – and we don’t. However, Mayo’s summary made it clear their came after Judge Lackey made his demand for money in September.

Since I found a number of inconsistencies in the various newspaper and blog versions of yesterday’s events, I am content to wait and let Judge Coleman speak for himself – just as John Jones did earlier in this interview published in Fortune.

Under Mississippi law, Jones says, if there’s nothing in writing on how to split the fees, the law presumes they’re to be split equally. Accordingly, he assumed that the starting point for negotiation would be that the Nutt firm would get 35 percent (as specified in the contract), and that everyone else would get an equal 16.25 percent share.

He knew there would be further adjustments from there, he continues, since the firms’ contributions were not equal.

“We had 1.5 lawyers on it full-time, a secretary and a paralegal,” he says, “while Scruggs had three lawyers and three or four paralegals; Nutt had 2 lawyers and untold paralegals,” and so on. He says his firm took the lead on all briefing, developing of legal theories, and deposing State Farm’s corporate and expert witnesses.”

Round 2 will be a hearing to determine what Jones’ share will be and what, if any, punitive damages are due – given Jones clearly understood he was entitled to a lesser share, another interesting day is ahead in the Jones v Scruggs fee dispute.

Read the Daily Journal story here and watch for the story that will appear in the Oxford Eagle. You’ll find the source documents in Jones v Scruggs under Legal in the left sidebar here.

UPDATED:  Judge Coleman’s Order of sanctions and his Order scheduling the hearing on sanctions and fees for November 12 have been posted on Jones v Scruggs.  Here’s a link to the AP story on the Clarion Ledger – and this clarification: At the time Jones filed suit, no fees had been disbursed to any member of SKG.

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