Well here is another nice mess you’ve gotten me into Part Deux: Judge Senter lowers the boom on the topic of State Farm’s cancerous Katrina claims handling. Slabbed Congratulates Henry and June Kuehn

laurel and hardyI suspect the appraisal panel for Henry and June Kuehn must be feeling good that the product of their honest day’s work was affirmed in total, especially State Farm’s boogey man Lewis O’Leary.

Judge Senter doesn’t seem amused by the jackassery of State Farm’s Oxford Mississippi based lawyers Scot Spragins and Lucky Tucker of Hickman, Goza and Spragins.

What we’ve found on slabbed is that some lawyers and law firms will do anything to stay on the insurance defense money train. It is our hope that the Kuehn’s lawyer will re-file motions to have the dysfunctional duo booted from the case as they are witnesses to an extraordinary act of insurance bad faith. Our readers will no doubt recall the original motion was dismissed without prejudice, meaning it could be brought back up when the moment was right.

The folks at the Denham law firm have done a tremendous job beclowning Spragins and Tucker while simultaneously laying bare State Farm’s sleazy methods of cheating  their homeless policyholders:

Minor testified he found Tucker’s instructions confusing and inconsistent with his (Minor’s) understanding of his responsibilities as an appraiser. Minor’s confusion and uncertainty concerning Tucker’s instructions were sufficient to prompt him to ask that Tucker either provide his instructions in writing or furnish a modified court order reflecting those instructions. Tucker declined Minor’s request for either of these forms of clarification. Although Tucker attended the evidentiary hearing, he did not take the witness stand to clarify or contradict what Minor had to say about their conversation.

Minor’s dissatisfaction was such that he asked Tucker to hire another appraiser and relieve him (Minor) of his responsibilities in this case. Tucker refused this request. Minor turned to Land and to other State Farm representatives for assistance in understanding his instructions, and Minor ultimately came away with the understanding he was to follow his ordinary practices in performing this appraisal. Minor testified that is exactly what he did.

After meeting together to discuss the damage they observed during the joint inspection of the plaintiffs’ residence, the members of the panel, at Minor’s instance, agreed all damage below the water line on the second floor would be excluded from consideration in the appraisal. The plaintiffs contended some of the damage below the Case 1:08-cv-00577-LTS-RHW Document 85 Filed 08/17/2009 Page 4 of 10 water line was attributable to covered wind and rain damage rather than exclusively to flooding, but plaintiffs’ representative, O’Leary, nevertheless agreed to exclude this damage from consideration. After discussing the damages they observed above the second-story water line, Minor, O’Leary, and Voelpel unanimously agreed the total covered loss was $174,881.80. The three members of the panel all signed a report reflecting this conclusion……..

To put this another way, State Farm is asserting this appraisal is invalid and unenforceable because the appraisal panel unanimously decided to exclude from consideration all damage below the second story water line. The appraisers testified they excluded this damage from consideration because damage caused by storm surge flooding is not a covered loss under the terms of the State Farm policy. This exclusion gives State Farm, and not the plaintiffs, the benefit of the doubt on this point. Once the parties’ representatives agreed damage below the second-story water line was not part of the covered loss, coverage was no longer an issue in dispute.

Judge Senter closes with a paragraph that makes it clear his patience with nonsensical and nonapplicable legal agruments used by the State Farm lawyers in their motions is wearing very thin in his courtroom:

Before I conducted the evidentiary hearing in this case, I understood State Farm was challenging the validity of this appraisal on the grounds it included items of property State Farm believed to have been damaged by storm surge flooding, an excluded peril. This led me to believe State Farm might have had a legitimate complaint under Munn. I now find, after hearing the evidence, particularly the testimony of the three members of the appraisal panel, I was mistaken in my understanding of State Farm’s contentions. State Farm offered no evidence this appraisal mistakenly includes any damage caused by storm surge flooding or any other excluded peril. It is undisputed that no contested items of damage were included in the appraisal award, and it is likewise undisputed that all damages below the second-story water line were properly excluded from consideration.

Accordingly, I will enter an order granting the plaintiffs’ a declaratory judgment the appraisal at issue is valid and binding on the parties in accordance with its terms. Judgment will be entered for $174,881.80 plus interest from sixty days after the amended appraisal was delivered to State Farm (the date Plaintiffs’ claim became liquidated) until the judgment is paid. Plaintiffs’ claim for attorneys fees and for other extracontractual damages will be resolved in subsequent proceedings.

Does anyone else besides me want to hear from Amy at State Farm on this case? Reality wins out over corporate spin hands down. I dedicated the scribd embed to Robert Hartwig and David Rossmiller.

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5 thoughts on “Well here is another nice mess you’ve gotten me into Part Deux: Judge Senter lowers the boom on the topic of State Farm’s cancerous Katrina claims handling. Slabbed Congratulates Henry and June Kuehn”

  1. Opinions like this, and the “shooting down” (in flames) of dishonest arguments by lawyers who knew they were intentionally misleading the Court and opposing counsel, bring to mind the following terms: “fraud upon the Court”, “accessory-after-the -fact “, and “misprison of a felony”. It’s high time that Judges make the miscreants pay personally for engaging in such conduct.

  2. good result but P should’ve gone after Tucker’s work papers with a blood lust; there’s a lot more in the wood pile here than what got in the record in this one case;

  3. juriscribe,

    We attempted to subpoena a number of documents from Tucker et al., but our attempts were quashed. Perhaps we’ll get another shot at it in the second (bad faith, fraud and extracontractual damages) phase of the litigation.

    Thanks to all for the support.

  4. Kris Carter is a good lawyer. I like the “perhaps we’ll get another shot at it in the second …phase of the litigation” quote from him. A very good idea and good idea to let them know the cost of appeal could be to make your client cough up more dirt on itself.

    I got the same answer from another lawyer who filed a subpoena only to have it denied. He also pointed out the Judge had threatened to find him in contempt due to the bold efforts he made made trying to get the Court to allow discovery in the case. Claims adjustment is a little box where policy claims go in and no money comes out. If you want to see the little box its a trade marked secret. Our competition might see how we do the work. Oddly they all use the same software and forms yet claim what they do is a big competitive secret.

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