Slabbed is the Place for Your Rigsby Qui Tam Balance

Slabbed is the place if you want to see Qui balance with Tam in the Rigsby sisters Qui Tam claim against State Farm.

Qui Tam is all about balance – the interest of the one who blows the whistle on a false claim against the government (the realtor) as well as the interest of the government.

Increasing and increasingly vicious attacks on the whistle blowing Rigsby sisters, Cori and Kerri, escalated to include their Qui Tam attorneys after USA v Scruggs was “out of the way” and the focus shifted to disqualifying the member firms of SKG reformed after Scruggs indictment as KLG as well as the Qui Tam Lawyers from Missouri who were never a part of the Scruggs or the KLG joint venture.

Slabbed is committed to balance and we work hard to provide it on every issue – so, if you’re looking for balance on the Rigsby’s Qui Tam case and justice for all, this is the place.

We have written extensively from a very non legal perspective as we learned our way around the concepts of Qui tam and the False Claims Act. Nowdy wrote an excellent Q&A post here which debunked the many of the arguments used by State Farm’s legal PR machine against the Rigsby sisters. We noted the latest batch of State Farm legal motions to disqualify the Qui Tam Lawyers Bartimus, Frickleton, Robertson & Gorny looked mighty weak here, here and here.

We start by addressing the imbalance that brought us to this point – or rather the point of the dager inserted in a recent filing by the Rigsby sister’s Qui Tam attorneys.

Paragraph 4 of Defendant” response appears to rely on (or fan) Internet speculation that Mr. Dewitt broke into State Farm’s computer network to take and share information with SKG and/or KLG.

There are several law blogs that have done some justice to the the insurance litigation here. Consumer insurance lawyer and wind-water combatant Chip Merlin graces our selective blogroll because of his incredibly insightful and forward thinking posts. Insurance industry lawyer and legal theorist David Rossmiller tells the story of the litigation from the industry’s point of view far from the trenches in Portland, Oregon. He does a good job posting and analyzing PACER filings. Dimechimes, an insurance adjusters blog out of Florida is the adjusters equivalent of consumer oriented slabbed. They do a great job monitoring other blogs plus adding their own content and perspective to the post Katrina litigation. Folo is a anti-Dickie Scruggs blog that sometimes wanders off into the Katrina litigation. It is moderated by a health insurance defense lawyer who had inside connections to the Dickie Scruggs Judicial Bribery scandal. Their Scruggs coverage, though strongly biased against Mr Scruggs was second to none in the entire blogosphere.

Something strange happened though, the right wing political blog Yallpolitics became an adjunct State Farm PR mouthpiece along with Folo, where one of the moderators openly hoped the Missouri Bar were reading so disciplinary action could be taken against former US Attorney Todd Graves based only upon the mention of the first name “Todd” in a deposition. Even worse lawyer/moderator NMC then parroted the State Farm party line on the disqualification of Todd Graves and then passed judgement on Todd Graves on the mere mention of a first name and less than rigorous analysis of the Risgby depositions. Frankly the analysis out of so called experts has been both dismal and most telling. While Nowdy and I were boning up I had to laugh at the people that will certainly be made to look very silly in revealing their biases against the Rigsby sisters and the people of the gulf coast who had lost their houses.

David Rossmiller, the originator of the Trailer Todd hypothesis has run for some cover today revealing what those of us who actually read the Rigsby depositions knew all along, there were multiple meetings between the Rigsby sisters and lawyers. However he continues to perpetuate a myth based on nothing but speculation, that Tony DeWitt and Todd Graves accessed the documents taken from Renfroe. Nothing wrong with such speculation though, Mr Rossmiller has been a faithful shill for State Farm throughout the Katrina litigation.

Now, for some balance.

Here is what those who follow this litigation in detail haven’t seen yet posted in the blogosphere, the opposing viewpoint of the Rigsby Qui Tam lawyers. Strangely the pro insurance industry blogs that were quick to trumpet the State Farm legal filings and demanding proof of Todd Graves whereabouts on March 11, 2006 missed these early responses which we have added to our growing library of Qui Tam case documents.

I found the both of the new filings to be brief, to the point and extremely well written. The first fallacy lies in assuming unethical conduct from Todd Graves and Tony DeWitt which State Farm’s lawyers manufactured in detail in their original lengthy motion to disqualify. The second is even stranger with their opposition to the relator’s motion for an emergency stay in the proceeding applying the logic of the DQ of the Katrina Litigation Group to Tony DeWitt and Todd Graves. This passage from the rebuttal to State Farm’s memo tells the tale.

Respondents have raised the issue of whether or not Graves Bartle & Marcus LLC or Bartimus, Fricltleton, Robertson & Gorny, P.C. can represent Relators, and whether Relators can pursue the claim of the United States. Relators claim Defendants defrauded the United States in a quest to preserve their profits. Given the importance of these claims, an orderly briefing schedule is necessary, and it should give due consideration to the issues raised in the flurry of motions this week. Consideration of the disqualification would minimize any potential disruptions later in the case.

State Farm is already of several minds on the issue. On Wednesday, it strongly believed that 100 pages of briefing and exhibits were necessary to seek an order of disqualification. With a new dawn, it believes the relief was granted last Friday, and suggests that briefing on several issues continue apace.

This smacks of tactical disqualification. State Farm is trying to drive a wedge between Relators’ and their attorneys, using an order from another case, dealing with a different subject matter, and involving different attorneys. The threshold issue is whether the United States’ relators can have continuity of counsel, or whether State Farm’s should be allowed to threaten discontinuity at every turn.

This Court obviously has the authority to answer the threshold issue, particularly where there is a charge of unethical conduct by attorneys practicing before it. State Farm cannot now argue that counsel were disqualified already while it also argues that the Court is helpless to consider the issue until a parade of subject matter jurisdiction motions pass by. State Farm should not be allowed to hold the Court, Relators, and the United States captive with tactical motions.

Tony DeWitt and David Marcus are not done though. They call out the poor quality of the analysis on certain Internet blogs in a footnote to their reply to Renfroe. Clearly they are not going to take an Alan Lange-Tom Freeland-David Rossmiller hatchet job without a fight.

Here is the relevant text from the rebuttal reply to EA Renfroe’s Motion and Memorandum.

Defendant Renfroe attempts to argue the merits of the Motion to Disqualify while avoiding the merits of Relators’ Motion for Stay. Defendants’ rush to substitute their own judgment for that of the Court, and their own sensational story for the facts, demonstrates the need for orderly and logical consideration of the pending motions.

Defendants short replies include many incorrect assumptions. The Court’s order in Mclntosh does not disqualify persons because Mr. Scruggs moved for their admission pro hack vice, contra Def. Renfroe’s Memo. at para. 3. Counsel in this matter were not part of the SKG (or KLG) contra Def. Renfroe’s Memo. at para. 4. Defendants’ fantastic hype concerning Mr.Dewitt id., verges on farce.† But Relators reserve the right to respond to Defendants’ many inaccuracies at the appropriate time.

The dagger (†) points us to the footnote and serves notice on those who hold themselves out as lawyers that shoddy analysis simply will not do.

Paragraph 4 of Defendant” response appears to rely on (or fan) Internet speculation that Mr. Dewitt broke into State Farm’s computer network to take and share information with SKG and/or KLG. Without waiving any privileges. counsel note that the only “State Farm [sic] computer system” accessed by Mr. Dewitt was Ms. Rigsby’s laptop, to copy files already on that computer. Mr. Dewitt did not access State Farm’s network or servers. Bloggers with day jobs can be excused for hasty conclusions based on partial transcripts. Defendants’ counsel, however, should know better. Relators look forward to the opportunity to address these issues completely at the appropriate time.

Looks like Tony Dewitt will give us plenty to balance as he seems ready to get it on against the lies, slander and outrageous attacks on his professionalism and ethics and let the facts of the Rigsby sisters’ claim stand on their own so this case can be decided on its merit rather than PR spin.

sop

19 thoughts on “Slabbed is the Place for Your Rigsby Qui Tam Balance”

  1. A few questions Sop – just to make sure I understand.

    1. It seems the Rigsby sister’s attorneys saying making a clear distinction between the “equipment” – a laptop computer – and the Renfroe/State Farm “system”. Correct?

    I can get on my office system from this laptop with a code but that information isn’t “on” this piece of equipment – just accessible from it. What’s on here are documents I’ve written or saved – everything from email messages to spread sheets.

    There’s a big difference – legally – in my letting you read or copy something on this piece of equipment and something in our system. That’s the point, isn’t it?

    2. Next, you’re saying Rossmiller has discovered/pointed out mention of other meetings. I know I should go read first but it’s late; so, here’s my question. Is his point that should the Todd turn out to be Todd Graves, he would no longer be USA if he attended a meeting on one of the newly discovered dates?

    Long day, not much time left if I’m going to get to sleep before you wake up! Excellent post btw, you really covered a lot of ground. Promise I’ll catch up tomorrow – actually, later today given the hour.

  2. To answer your question #1 my understanding is when someone sends out information in an email they are in effect sending it out to the world. The difference between accessing State Farm’s system versus taking a copy of an email sent out by State Farm is great. Also we should keep in mind the concept that should an employee of a business discover an illegal act no duty of confidentiality exists.

    In reply to question #2 your observation is absolutely true but that is not my point. I hit the Folo people fairly hard last night but after reading NMC’s reply there it clear they still don’t get it.. Rossmiller has been selectively quoting the Rigsby depositions and hammering on a March 11, 2006 meeting implying that Todd Graves was there. He still implies Tony DeWitt and Todd Graves illegally accessed the State Farm computer system based on nothing but speculation on his part.

    He is smart because he repeated his trailer fantasy enough that it took on a life of it’s own being quoted as fact to the point where the logic became “Graves must prove he was at Disney” when State Farm’s lawyers and Rossmiller never had more proof that he was present at the March 11, 2006 meeting than the first name Todd being mentioned in a deposition. In short Mr Rossmiller lead people who should have known better down the primrose path and now that an accurate version of events will soon be released, he does a by the way, there was another meeting in April mentioned in both Cori and Kerri Rigsby’s depositions.

    I suspect as Mr Rossmiller retreats from the coming train wreck of speculation and rumor mongering he originated that he must derive some satisfaction from having others holding the bag. From a blogging standpoint what he pulled off is simply masterful.

    sop

  3. Great entry. Rossmiller was smart in how he applied the hatchet. Some of the others may want to consult a lawyer.

  4. Fantastic post, Sop! Now that more sun is shining on this case instead of the smoke and mirrors of SF et al. we can see a bit more clearly.

  5. Don’t know if anyone has a quick answer,but why did it take almost two years for Senter to DQ the Rigsbys testimony? This information about them getting paid has been out for some time now Sunherald/Deposition. Have the facts changed?
    Thanks

  6. Hello all….new here but have been reading and I’m curious to know what I should make of this:
    (sorry to take up so much room)
    Kerri Rigsby

  7. Duesouth your remarks go to the heart of Judge Senter’s first denial of the KLG DQ. I think what changed was the guilty pleas. I hate it for the people who were slabbed, first by the storm, then by their insurer and once again by their lawyers. From a non legal standpoint I would tend to agree Scruggs was set up, but when he had a chance to say “No way would I bribe a judge” he ponied up money instead when given the opportunity. There is no getting around that fact.

    DH, that deposition testimony has been posted ad nauseum on various blogs though I’m happy to let you reprint it here. That said, it proves nothing with respect to the Missouri lawyers. The question is which lawyers did they meet with those several times at the trailer but her answer did not provide a time frame.

    Q. And who did you meet with at the trailer?
    A. We met with several attorneys at that trailer.

    Q. Give me their names, please.
    A. Tony Dewitt, there was an attorney named Mary, Todd, and Chip.

    Q. Mary

  8. Sop’s in such a big “sunshine” state, belle, I had to buy new shades.

    duesouth, the immediate problem is Sop’s out for a couple of hours – and that means you’re going to get a two-part answer. Here’s my somewhat educated guess based on the thinking I read in his decisions.

    When the 5th overruled him on appeal, he said to hell with that and started bullet-proofing the Katrina cases.

    I believe he put a lot of careful thought into both decisions; however, he can only rule on the evidence – and evidence he had supported what he decided both times.

    Best I can do at the moment duesouth – now, give us your best guess and tell us what you know. .

    Don’t forget to check back late afternoon for Sop’s little ray of sunshine on your question!

  9. It didn’t take me hours to write that answer to duesouth Sop! Did you give me all those assignments and go take a nap?

    my two cents on that part of the deposition – we need to link to the post about changing the picture when the facts don’t fit before it becomes the Katrina equivalent of “Elvis is still alive”

  10. I thought this advertisement for a seminar on blogs for lawyers might give those who didn’t understand just why some lawyers blog—(Its a key marketing tool). The ideal position is to set oneself up as an impartial reasoned voice in the legal matter and than fool the general public into believing you are impartial. This is highly unethical in anyone’s book and its just what is being done post- Katrina by many lawyers who should know better. The legal profession needs to address these members and I say the time is now. It is in my opinion highly unehtic to persent oneself to the public as an impartial voice in a legal matter while conducting marketing to one of the parties involved in the matter(or to industry in question as a whole). The site should note the marketing efforts which are being made by the party involved along with related business ties. A lawyer cannot work for two masters….

    Who Should Attend
    All attorneys and business executives who need to know about recent developments in blogging for their business and/or for their clients’ business

    Why Attend
    Blogs (short for “Web logs”) are fomenting a wide variety of legal issues. Legal blogging, also known as “blawging,” has become fully mainstream. No longer just for a few hip IP lawyers or a forum for law firm gossip, blogs are quickly replacing conventional Web sites as the key marketing tool for large and small firms alike to increase their visibility via the Internet. At the same time, a growing number of attorneys are being engaged to represent clients with problems arising from blogs. From employment issues to disputes over who owns the content, the legal consequences of blogging are expanding proportionately with the number of blogs — which by one estimate are increasing at a rate of 70,000 per day. As the first comprehensive CLE conference to look at blogging both as a marketing tool for attorneys and as a legal gray area, this program offers attendees an extraordinary opportunity to get tips from the nation’s top experts on starting a legal blog for their firms and making their existing blogs more effective, to hear the current status of case law directly from those who are involved, and to gain the insights of pioneers in the evolving world of blogging. ~Program Co-Chairs: Catherine S. Kirkman, Esq., and Dennis Crouch, Esq.

    What You Will Learn
    – Legal gray areas arising from the proliferation of Web logs – The future of blogging — a passing fad or here to stay? – The extent to which bloggers qualify for the First Amendment protections afforded to journalists – Content ownership and syndication issues – Employment issues arising from blogging within corporations – The latest in blogging technology, including audio and video feeds – How to set up a blog for your law firm or make your current blog more effective – How blogs differ from regular Web sites in generating traffic — and business — for your firm – Ethics questions surrounding the blog as a law firm marketing tool – PLUS an on-the-ground report from several law firm bloggers

  11. Ha ha ha fantastic post Steve. I would suggest anyone reading Sop’s posts go look at the many other “rays of sunshine” out there…from Wikipedia to InsuranceCoverageBlog.com to mainstream news…to get both sides of the issue. This lawsuit seems to be going down in flames pretty quickly after all the illegal stuff that was done to prop it up as legitimate has come to light. Smoke and mirrors? I think meeting in a trailer on the beach, with a number of attorneys whose names you can’t remember, for a firm you can’t remember, and being paid $150,000 for it sounds like something out of a mobster or dirty cop movie. This is the kind of garbage that should prompt sharper scrutiny and regulation of plaintiff’s lawyers.

  12. Welcome to slabbed Mr. Legalese. I’m certain you hard core industry guys appreciate David Rossmiller. I do too believe it or not. If it wasn’t for people like him I wouldn’t be blogging at all. No need to Wiki Rossmiller, we’ve linked him several times and will again.

    The rest of the story is due out soon and the public will no doubt be disappointed it doesn’t jive up with the PR spin and outright professional character assassination spewed into cyberspace by people who in most cases should have known better.

    Here at slabbed we’re content to let the facts speak for themselves, whether that facts lead us to guilty pleas in judicial bribery, an insurance company stooping to the depths of bad faith in order to avoid paying claims for people who lost their houses or every taxpayer in this country being duped into paying wind obligations of a private insurer. I hope as the facts are revealed Mr. Legalese they are not too painful for you to face but rest assured we’re here on behalf of the people impacted by Katrina, especially those that were slabbed and we’ll be here until every case has crossed the finish line to resolution.

    Steve your post is thought provoking. I am unsure of the legal ethics involved in getting a message out via cyberspace versus speaking to judges directly. On its face there should be nothing wrong with sharing an opinion. Adding a monetary consideration could change those dynamics however. I’ll refer your question to a couple of lawyers I know to see what I can scare up.

    sop

  13. Interesting that this should come up today. From the Daily Mississippian (h/t folo), Paul Quinn writes about the ethics panel yesterday where Judge Mills “discussed an alternative type of ‘earwigging’ through internet blogs.

    “Mills said if he doesn’t read the comments on a certain blog, someone in his office is bound to print it out and leave a copy on his desk.

    ”I know all of these comments are not written by uninterested third parties,’Mills said.

    “Freeland [NMC of folo] said he does not comment about his cases to avoid any appearance of impropriety.

    “The blog he writes for, http://www.folo.com, is covering the Mississippi beef plant case.

    “Freeland is a defense attorney for the case; however, he said he does not comment or write about his cases.

    “Mills said some of the comments are intended to influence judges.

    “That constitutes “ex parte” contact and should be addressed by the American Bar Association.”

  14. Legalese, this qui tam suit is brought under the False Claims Act against State Farm. The first 3 paragraphs are noted below. The Rigsby sister ran across information where State Farm was defrauding the United States Government. There are procedures for filing this claim and they did so as was required. It is a little ironic that you think that their meeting in a trailer is suspect, but I guess you aren’t from the coast where the houses were slabbed by the storm, the residents were slabbed by their insurance companies and the US taxpayers were slabbed with the bill.

    (a) Liability for Certain Acts.

  15. I’m working on a post based on the article in the DM – took a break and came back to see the comment. Belle, you’ve got a great eye – but we knew that. Thanks for all the great information and the good “promo” for my post…

    …and the “giggle”. I had never thought about the various “trailer” comments that way – so many people here work hard for their “double wide” and are justifiably proud to call them home. We need to remember to post some pictures at Christmas!

  16. Judge Mills said some of the comments are intended to influence judges. I will say that Judge Mills has done his homework. I was able to locate a direct call to Judge Senter on one Blog to handle a case in a certain manner. Mmm.

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