Renfroe seeks disqualification of Rigsby sisters as witnesses in qui tam case

Renfroe’s Response to the Rigsbys’ Motion for Clarification was the other “Friday night special” I pulled late yesterday. Ordinarily, I would have posted the document as soon as I finished reading; but, I don’t ordinarily have to read a document as many times as I’ve read this one.

Read along with me and see if you don’t agree this one is a piece of work. We’ll start with this “refresher”:

Relators have filed a motion for “clarification” of the Court’s April 4, 2008 order [Docket No. 1173] in McIntosh v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co., No. 1:06cv1080-LTS-RHW (S.D. Miss.) (hereinafter “McIntosh Order”) ostensibly “to clarify” that the order “does not preclude the Relators from testifying in this case.”

Before we move on, let’s do another refresher and look at denial, the most primitive of all defense mechanisms and distortion, another primitive defense mechanism.

Refusal to accept external reality because it is too threatening; arguing against an anxiety-provoking stimulus by stating it doesn’t exist; resolution of emotional conflict and reduction of anxiety by refusing to perceive or consciously acknowledge the more unpleasant aspects of external reality. (denial)

A gross reshaping of external reality to meet internal needs. (distortion)

Renfroe uses defense mechanism IMO because the reality of their legitimate defense is so painful – they worked at the direction of State Farm. Posing that defense would cost them the State Farm account, approximately 70% of their business as I recall; so, they deny reality and pose a different and distorted version.

Confoundingly, Relators profess the need to clarify and “confirm” their reading of an order that, in the next breath, they declare “quite clearly does not preclude the Rigsbys from testifying in this False Claims Act case.” Id. at 1. Relators never explain why they would need clarification of an order they believe to be “quite clear[],” a position almost as preposterous as Relators’ assertion that the McIntosh Order does not disqualify them as witnesses in this case.

Renfroe – and State Farm, too, for that matter- know Senter’s order did not disqualify the Rigsby sisters from serving as witnesses in the qui tam case.

(Senter’s Order) That Cori and Kerri Rigsby are hereby DISQUALIFIED as witnesses in any actions now pending on this Court’s docket against State Farm or Renfroe in which the Scruggs Katrina Group or the Katrina Litigation Group has represented the plaintiffs[.]

(Renfroe Response, page 4-7) …Relators’ previous False Claims Act attorneys -who were not part of Scruggs’s joint ventures…

Consequently, the motion includes this allegation and related footnote:

Needless to say, Relators are decidedly not innocent victims here. They are, among other things, the very same people who, for months, clandestinely stole thousands of documents from Renfroe and State Farm and fed them to Scruggs, and the evidence shows they were involved with Scruggs in the breach of the qui tam seal in this case.(4)

(4)Defendant State Farm has recently filed with the Court an Attachment (Docket No. [203]) to its Motion to Dismiss (Docket No. [98]) setting forth newly discovered evidence of violations of the seal in this case. See also State Farm’s Memorandum of Authorities in Support of Its Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint (Docket No. [99]) at 23-26.

Docket No. 203, filed by State Farm in the qui tam case on August 1, contains the transcript of depositions of the Scruggses taken for McIntosh in the Oxford depositions. At present, the claims made are allegations, not fact, and they are allegations subject to objections raised by counsel for McIntosh and in subsequent motions filed by McIntosh counsel and the Scruggses – allegations represented as fact in this motion and supported as fact by the footnote.

This continuing use of defense mechanisms, distortion of allegations as fact in this example, is best saved for a therapeutic setting.

It is my sincere hope that the type of normal, professional, and focused advocacy necessary to resolve the individual merits of the cases still outstanding will presently come to the fore.

Judge Senter wrote those words on the fourth of June – two months and 20 days ago – and yet we are continuing to see the contract claims at the heart these cases, being pushed off their rightful place at center stage. How much longer do we wait?

16 thoughts on “Renfroe seeks disqualification of Rigsby sisters as witnesses in qui tam case”

  1. justme, is there anything that isn’t arguable in these cases?

    His order was specific to cases where plaintiff’s had been represented by SKG or KLG – and the Rigsby sisters were represented by neither.

    Until recently that would just be another point of argument – a claim; but, I believe I saw documentation supporting that position.

    Of course, it wasn’t on tablets of stone – and nothing less may be inarguable, if that.

  2. I believe Dickie just signed on as local counsel. I’d like to see what the 5th says about the KC lawyers being disqualified.

  3. Belle,

    I think it would be very difficult to prove up that Dickie didn’t represent the Sisters in the qui tam case at all in that he signed the initial complaint as Attorney for the Relators, along with the attorneys from MO. I am unsure if you need “local counsel” when filing in federal court vs state court, but maybe one of the attorney’s on here can address that. By providing copies of the complaint to various media outlets before it was unsealed would also be damaging as how could anyone who wasn’t the attorney representing them get a copy of the petition in the 1st place. How all that shakes out when it comes to any DQ of them is anyones guess these days and I wouldn’t even venture to guess what will come of it. As for the 5th circuit overturning the prior DQ ourder, if I were a gambler I’d bet they won’t in that they have appeared to me to be more conservative in their rulings in reference to the Katrina stuff then the sitting judges have been. I’ve been wrong before and I guarantee I’ll be wrong again sometime though.

  4. Hey, Beau, glad you stopped by. I’m sure belle will respond by later but know she plans right after work.

    I don’t know about the “local counsel” but I do know Senter’s order cited cases where plaintiff’s in State Farm cases were represented by SKG or KLG – and neither SKG or KLG were counsel for the qui tam. Whatever role Scruggs played was independent of SKG in the qui tam and the actual qui tam counsel was the Missouri firm – but like you said, anything can happen.

    btw, Is there more than just the allegation copies of the complaint were given to the media. I read the questions in the deposition but thought there was only information suggesting the possibility.

  5. I agree that I’ve seen no indication at all that SKG or kLG had any involvement in qui tam, only Scruggs as an individual and the MO attorneys. Question that whomever will be deciding is how Scruggs as an individual comes into play I suppose.
    On the issue of the copies of the complaint given to the media, i read the questions in the depo about it, which obviously weren’t answered except by the pleading of the 5th, but I myself don’t draw conclusions from that. Nowdy, I was refering to the copies of the emails from Scruggs to the 3-4 news outlets where he sent copies to them and referenced the suit in emails. Copies of those emails have surfaced (I am assuming from the media people direct vs Scruggs) and have been exhibits in some pleadings or depos. i’ve seen them a few times floating around one blog or another. If I can locate them, I’ll try to link them but may take a day or two.

  6. I read through one batch of email messages that were in the zillion attachments to last motion SF filed in McIntosh – the one where the attorney posted documents Scruggses submitted in response to motion to compel depositions.

    Didn’t see anything in that batch like you’re talking about…but in the deposition transcript, I recall mention the attachment was only partial page. Seems like the point was that SF could not tell if anything about the Rigsby case was transmitted – but that didn’t seem to stop SF from making claim.

    Makes sense to me that you might send something suggesting type of lawsuit possible based on the evidence; but, nothing specific.

    The way the motion is written makes it difficult to identify attachments/exhibit…for example, it says something like Scruggs provided over 2000 pages of documents Attachment C. A document dump IMO just like the WaPo article I posted suggested.

    Maybe one of us will run across what you’re talking about. Very nice of you to offer to take a look. Thanks.

  7. Nowdy,

    Here is a link to the emails that I read that went from Scruggs to the media around the time the 20/20 thing took place. They were sent out 4-5 months after the filing of the case, but probably 7-8 months before it was unsealed. Needless to say, the only people that were to have access to this information at that timeframe would be the relators, their attorneys and the gov’t. Seems I heard or read somewhere that the defendents can’t even get copies until they are unsealed. If this works, this will be the link to the article in Y’all Politics about it, and in that article it has 4-5 seperate links to the actual emails. If it doesn’t work, just cut and paste it and it should work. I think I read recently that these actually came from Scruggs himself to SF, but don’t know where I saw that.

  8. Thanks, I followed the link and guess that’s where I’d seen them, too.

    I don’t think there is a seal problem. The False Claims Act establishes a 60-day seal period that should resolve the matter. However, we’ll have to wait for the Rigsbys new qui tam attorneys to conduct discovery and respond to the motion according to instructions in Judge Senter’s scheduling order.

    In a way this allegation is like the allegations the documents were “stolen” – by that I mean another “defense mechansism” employed by State Farm when no defense is available.

    re: “stolen” vs the FCA courts have held that employees with a good faith
    reason to believe their employer is engaged in unlawful conduct

  9. The suit was filed and sealed on 4/26/2006. The government sought and received extensions totaling more than a year. The suit was unsealed on 8/1/2007.

    What was/were the dates the press is alleged to have received copies of the complaint?

  10. I found it – February 2007 statements made by Representative Gene Taylor that Scruggs law firm was representing the Rigsby’s in FCA lawsuit, and that Congressional Subcommittee should take the testimony of the sisters.

    The problem is, the Feds got their extensions of the seal specifically because they were conducting a criminal investigation of SF, and they didn’t want the civil qui tam to interfere.

    During this period, Scruggs, et al. learned of the competing qui tam in New Orleans, and his suit was about to get trumped because the NO suit was being unsealed and moving forward. As he put it, his clients with their first-filed suit were sidelined by the delay, while the NO case, making substantially similar claims, was about to go forward.

    This may or may not explain some motivation to breach the seal.

  11. NAAS, did they get their extensions before the 60 day period ended? I recall Scruggs testimony from Alabama with something about not hearing from the feds at all prior to the data dump – will have to see if I can find it.

    I do think the Branch qui tam was an issue and was checking those dates the other night and got distracted.

  12. Yes, the first extension request was timely. I’m not a lawyer, but i think the 60 days doesn’t start to run against the government until they are served with the complaint.

  13. NAAS,
    Suit filed/sealed 4-26-06, information sent from Scruggs to the media early to mid August 2006 I believe, you mentioned that Taylor discusses the case in February 2007, and the seal isn’t lifted until 8-07. So much for sealing the case in the 1st place, when the plaintiff’s attorney basically let everyone in the world know it was out there. Does anyone know if Taylor actually got a copy of the suit before it was unsealed like the media?

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