Monkey Business – State Farm Mutual, State Farm Fire, and Rule 30(b)(6)

hear-no-evil-pictureIn its notice or subpoena, a party may name as the deponent a public or private corporation, a partnership, an association, a governmental agency, or other entity and must describe with reasonable particularity the matters for examination.

The named organization must then designate one or more officers, directors, or managing agents, or designate other persons who consent to testify on its behalf; and it may set out the matters on which each person designated will testify.

A subpoena must advise a non-party organization of its duty to make this designation. The persons designated must testify about information known or reasonably available to the organization…. Rule 30(b)(6)FRCP

When the named organization is State Farm, some think the party and the non-party are one in the same.  One who shares that view is the Administrative Law Judge who reviewed the Company’s plan to withdraw from Florida and issued a related Order :

Transactions between State Farm Mutual and State Farm Florida for reinsurance and credit risk provisions totaling approximately $561.8 million, when viewed in the light of economic reality, Subsection 1.01(3), or Section 624.04, may be transactions which State Farm Mutual engages in with itself and which lack any independent economic significance. Transactions with no independent economic significance would be sham transactions which may distort the economic costs of the reinsurance and credit risk provisions purchased from State Farm Mutual. Such economic distortions may enable the group to derive a rate advantage from the legal form in which State Farm Mutual chooses to do business in Florida. (Finding of Fact 42)

The various legal forms in which State Farm Mutual exists could be called Corporate DID:

a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a condition in which a single person displays multiple distinct identities or personalities (known as alter egos or alters), each with its own pattern of perceiving and interacting with the environment. The diagnosis requires that at least two personalities routinely take control of the individual’s behavior with an associated memory loss that goes beyond normal forgetfulness…

Litigation following Hurricane Katrina became policyholders vs Eve and Sybil as State Farm  State Farm Mutual, the Company whole, disassociated into State Farm Fire & Casualty. 

Robert Tribbel began working for State Farm Mutual in 1975.  When Jeff Marr took his deposition on November 29, 2006, Mr. Tribbel was a senior vice president with executive oversight over the Company’s southern zone and had been in that position for two years:

Q Now, are you an employee of the mutual company or are you an employee of State Farm Fire & Casualty?

A Mutual company.

Q Has that always been the case?

A To my knowledge.

Q How is it the mutual company has oversight  for the operations of State Farm Fire & Casualty?

A Can you be a little more specific?

Q Well, I’m not sure. The part of your job responsibilities is to manage and oversee State Farm Fire & Casualty’s operations in the southern zone, correct?

A Correct.

Q How is that? How is it that a mutual company employee is responsible for oversight and supervision for the State Farm Fire & Casualty’s operation?

A It’s — you know, I’d be speculating as to how we’re corporately structured but to the best of my knowledge the fire and casualty company is a wholly owned subsidiary of our mutual company.

Pages from SFprotocol memo guice
Cover memo for State Farm's Wind-Water Protocol

According to Mr. Trippel, as senior vice president for State Farm’s “southern zone,” he had executive oversight over the states of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.  He identified Louisiana, Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma as states in the Company’s “central zone” and Texas and Florida as single-state zones.

Following Katrina, State Farm produced a Wind-Water Protocol for handling policyholder claims from designated states in both the southern (Mississippi, Alabama) and central (Louisiana) zones.

Christopher Lapinskie, a State Farm catastrophe team manager assigned to Louisiana after Katrina, admitted he did not know or attempt to find out who wrote the Protocol.

Ordinarily, that might be understandable.

However, Mr. Lapinskie was no ordinary cat team manager, he was State Farm – the Company’s designated 30(b)(6) representative in “approximately six” claim disputes including  the wind v water dispute that occasioned this deposition:

We are going to attach this  as “SF Number 4” (four).  What I have presented to the witness is  a document dated September 13 (thirteen) of 2005 (two thousand five)…

Q.    Would you please explain for the record what that document is, Mr. Lapinskie?

A. This document was created because of the combination of wind and water damages many homes sustained from Hurricane Katrina…

Q. As the corporate representative of State Farm, do you know who drafted this document?

A. I do not know the drafter of the document, no.

Q. Have you ever heard the name Stephan Hinkle before?

A. The name rings a bell, but I could not tell you where I heard it, no.

Q. Do you know who he is?

A. No, I do not.

Q. As you sit here on behalf of State Farm, you have no idea who drafted the  protocol to be applied to wind/water claims resulting from Hurricane Katrina on behalf of State Farm?

A.    Property and Casualty Claim Consulting Services are the drafter of this document…

Q.   The person or more than one (1) person had to draft this, is that correct?

A. Correct.

Q.    And as State Farm, you have no idea of who that person or persons is or are, is that correct?

A. I do not know who the people involved in the drafting of this are.

Q.    As State Farm, have you made any attempt to find out who drafted this document?

A. I do not recall trying to find out who was the drafter of the document or if it was one (1) specific person, no.

Q. You have been certainly asked about who drafted this document in previous depositions, is that correct?

A. I believe I have been asked who has drafted the document and my response has been, “Property and Casualty Claim Consulting Services.”

Q. Is it of any interest to State Farm, you speaking on behalf of State Farm, to  know who it was who actually drafted  this particular document, which, at the top, says, “Action Required?”

A. The drafters are Property and Casualty Claim Consulting Services.

Q.    I’m talking about people, sir, and do  you understand what I’m asking you?   That is like telling me State Farm drafted the document when you tell me an entity drafted the document.

A.    When I say an entity, your use of the word “entity” —- because my understanding is, there is no one (1) person that drafted this.  This was a document that was drafted, for the lack of a better choice of words, by a committee.

Q. Who was on that committee?

A. I do not know.

Q. State Farm does not know as of today who drafted a nearly three (3) year old document, and it is to guide the  handling of wind and water claims resulting from Hurricane Katrina?

A. I do not know who the drafter or the drafters were of this document.

Q. Has State Farm, at any point, made an attempt to determine who, whether a committee or an individual, drafted the document, which sets forth the protocol for handling wind and water claims?

A. I have not asked who the people involved in the drafting of that is, no.

Although he’d not spoken with Hinkle in the two years he’d been over the zone, Robert Tipple knew Steve Hinkle had been the primary drafter of the Wind-Water Protocol and understood Hinkle was the zone’s claim consultant.

Q. All right. Who is Stephan Hinkle?

A. Steven is a, it’s my understanding Steven is our claim consultant for the southern zone.

Q. As senior vice president for the southern region how do you utilize general claim consultants?

A. I rely on my, my personal reliance on the general claim consultants, I have very little interaction with them at all.

Q. Well, tell me what interaction you do have.

A. The only interaction I would have would be information that would be obtained through discussions with my operation vice president or my vice president  of operations.

Q. And —

A. I don’t know that I’ve had a face to face conversation in the two years I’ve been there with our
claim consultant…

Q. Do you ever ask anything or assign any projects to the general claim consultant as it may
relate to the southern region?

A. I don’t personally, no.

Q. When’s the last time you had a conversation with Mr. Hinkle, your claim consultant?

A. I think I stated a minute ago I don’t think I’ve had a conversation directly with him.

Q.Ever?

A. In my at least two years there.

Q. In your two years in your current position?

A. In my current position, that I can recall. I mean we could have bumped into each other somewhere but  it wouldn’t have been a business conversation…

Eve had three faces and Sybil sixteen alters who disassociated from the main personality – alters that in Sybil’s case became co-conscious, able to communicate and share responsibilities in much the same way Mr. Tripple described his responsibilities as a Mutual employee working with Mutual’s corporate partners.

Mr. Lapinskie, on the other hand, was a contract employee of one of those partners and far removed from the chain of command – so far he could not see the author for the Fire.

Let’s mark as Exhibit 16 a copy of the September 13, 2005 Wind/Water Protocol.

Q. Mr. Hinkle, did you author this exhibit?

A. I authored in conjunction with other people, yes.

Q. All right, and when did your author it?

A. I believe I started it on September 9th or 10th.

Q. And you authored it in conjunction with who?

A. The — there were other consultants, Mike Tucker, Keith Hathaway, Mike Sebald and a claim director by the name of Michael Carroll was also involved. And then several attorneys.

After a diagnosis of DID, can take years of therapy to merge the alters into the main personality. Efforts of plaintiff’s lawyers to hold State Farm Mutual accountable, and not just State Farm Fire, have been constant.  However,  Judge Senter’s Order in Robohm v State Farm was a major setback.

The Robohm Plaintiffs, as Judge Senter pointed out, were not the first to attempt to impose liability on State Farm Mutual under an insurance policy…to which State Farm Mutual was not a party…

…State Farm Mutual Insurance Company (State Farm Mutual)… is the parent company of Defendant State Farm Fire & Casualty Company (State Farm)…There is no need for the Court to recapitulate its discussions of corporate forms, see, e.g., Perkins, supra; Bridgewater v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Co…

…No matter how Plaintiffs’ label State Farm Mutual’s alleged wrongdoing – as a “top-down, post catastrophe fraudulent claims handling scheme,” or as “institutional,” or as part of a “civil conspiracy,” or as fraudulent – and try as they might to assert that they are not really trying to pierce the corporate veil or refer to State Farm and State Farm Mutual collectively, Plaintiffs’ assertions against State Farm Mutual remain conclusory…

State Farm Mutual will be dismissed from this cause of action. It should go without saying that State Farm Mutual is excused from participating in the mediation process…

It should also go without saying that it’s never too late to do what’s right.

3 thoughts on “Monkey Business – State Farm Mutual, State Farm Fire, and Rule 30(b)(6)”

  1. Mr. Lapinskie appears to have perjured himself in Weatherly Nowdy. Not that anything ever happens to employees of large insurance companies that commit crimes mind you. DOJ seems far more interested in low lives that stole a few thousand bucks from FEMA after the storm.

    Anyone counting on Ozerden, Walker and company to do the right thing better not hold their breath if they value their health.

    Excellent post and fantastic research.

    sop

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *