Links below take you to the latest on the Rigsby Qui Tam – Todd Graves’ Motion for Admission Pro Hac Vice; State Farm’s Response, and the Realtors’ Reply.
Discussion to follow.
Sop here – Belle does such a great job analyzing the issues I’m moving her comment to the post body. NMC at Folo must really want us to see his latest Qui Tam hatchet job as they sent two pingbacks on their post Todd Graves snaps to us over the weekend that ended up in our spam filter. I guess he and Rossmiller think they can click their heels together enough times and say Todd Graves is gone that their commentary will override the facts. Children at play, it is a wonderful sight. Now for Bellesouth’s excellent observations.
Doesn’t it seem as though Graves is forcing the hands of State Farm to put up or shut up? And would Graves do this if he didn’t have a better hand to play? State Farm is trying to strip the Rigsbys of their counsel in this qui tam suit where they allege that State Farm was defrauding the United States. But because Scruggs was using the Rigsbys in his claims for policyholders as fact witnesses and then paying them, his firm on behalf of the policyholders was disqualified because he was paying them. That was Scruggs v. State Farm. But the Missouri lawyers are representing the Rigsbys as counsel in their qui tam suit and:
Counsel in this case expressly disavowed any and all willingness to pay any funds to their clients in this case. (Robertson Declaration at ¶ 16). And for this reason, counsel in this case never paid, agreed to pay, ratified any payment to or participated in any agreement to pay the Relators, whatever decisionsmight have been reached by Scruggs Katrina Group and/or the Katrina Litigation Group for whatever purposes those decisions were reached.
Also, “As noted by the Katrina Litigation Group attorneys in their response to the motion to disqualify, the Bartimus firm is not and never has been a part of either the Scruggs Katrina Group or the Katrina Litigation Group.”
1. BFRG was never a member of Scruggs Katrina Group (“SKG”) or the Katrina Litigation Group (“KLKG”). (Exhibit A).1
1 As noted by the Katrina Litigation Group attorneys in their response to the motion to disqualify, the Bartimus firm is not and never has been a part of either the Scruggs Katrina Group or the Katrina Litigation Group. (Docket # 1106 McIntosh v. State Farm).
2. BFRG has not entered an appearance in any case filed by any person having a claim against any insurance company for failure to pay claims following Hurricane Katrina in the Southern District of Mississippi.
3. No member of BFRG participated in any decision to provide any funds to the Relators in this case.
4. No member of BFRG paid any amount or agreed to pay any amount to the Relators for any purpose.
5. No member of BFRG was asked to ratify a decision by others to pay any amount to the Relators for any purpose. BFRG expressly disavowed any participation in payment of any funds to the Realtors and suggested that, as to the qui tam action, such payments would not be proper, and no payments could be made to the Relators except by the United States upon the successful completion of the false claims litigation.
6. Neither BFRG nor any member of BFRG has received any attorneys’ fees from either SKG or KLG.
To answer Rossmiller’s question, “Hasn’t the government declined to get involved in this lawsuit?”
The Government’s investigation has not been completed, as certain potentially relevant information has not become available. As such, the United Stats is not able to decide, as of the Court’s deadline, whether to proceed with the action. Accordingly, the United States hereby notifies the Court that it is not intervening at this time.
(Docket # 56)
Had the government declined to intervene, it would have filed a notice of non-intervention, not a notice of no decision.
3 “Regardless of whether the government opts to control or intervene in a case, the False Claims Act requires that actions `be brought in the name of the Government.’ 31 U.S.C. § 3730(b)(1).
Thus . . . the United States is a real party in interest even if it does not control the False Claims Act suit. See United States ex rel. Milam v. University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, 961 F.2d 46, 48-49 (4th Cir. 1992).”
And for NMC to insinuate on State Farms behalf:
its allegations that have now been essentially admitted by Mr. Graves that he worked with Scruggs and the Rigsbys during the period of the document dump and the cash payments to the Rigsbys, it’s hard to see how State Farm could have done anything else but oppose that motion. While Mr. Graves wants us to know that he, himself, personally kept his hands clean of paying money and taking documents, and that he himself personally was not a member of SKG, no one has explained to me how that amounts to clean hands given the timing of his involvement with Scruggs and the Rigsbys.
It is not only Graves, “he, himself and personally who kept his hands clean of paying money … [and] was not a member of SKG…given the timing of his involvement with Scruggs…”
Both LAW FIRMS deny this:
First, in this case the Rigsby’s are not fact witnesses but are clients of the law firms, parties, and Relators speaking for and on behalf of the United States.
Second, there have been no payments to fact witnesses (or anyone else) in this case (or in any other case) by or on behalf of BFRG or GBM:
a. Relators are not fact witnesses, but clients and Relators standing in the shoes of the federal Government.
b. No payments have been made to Relators by BFRG or GBM.
Third, as previously stated, the fact of ratification by BFRG of payments by SKG does not exist. Indeed, BFRG expressly disavowed the payments when it learned of them after the fact because the ethical rules prohibit payments to clients. See, Ms. R.P.C. 1.8(e) (Robertson at ¶ 16).
Fourth, there was no unethical conduct because:
a. confidential meetings between clients and their attorneys are protected by the attorney-client privilege, a privilege that does not flow to fact witnesses.
b. Neither BFRG nor GBM attorneys ever accessed any State Farm database.
There being no factual basis for State Farm’s motion and assertions of unethical conduct, the Motion to Disqualify BFRG and GBM should be denied.
I also think it quite disingenuous of NMC to say: “The KC lawyers knew about the payments and did nothing to stop them, they knew about the documents dump, and they were associated with Scruggs from the git-go.” And on what is he basing his statement on behalf of State Farm and WHY. I believe this statement in and of itself does not pass the “laugh test”.
He also opines in a non lawyerly way announcing “I think lawyers who participate in the kind of conduct presented here should be disqualified ” yet there is no proof of this conduct on behalf of the Missouri Lawyers. “saying it’s so doesn’t make it so,” I guess it is so only if you are State Farm. Why, oh why can’t there be more objective covering of this important lawsuit of behalf of the United States and its citizens against a company who has been known all over the country to use any tactics so as not to pay claims? Maybe because those who vie for State Farm make their money off of insurance companies. It’s their bread and butter. You know, the Rigsby made their money off of insurance companies but they couldn’t in all conscience continue to participate in this fraud.