Federal District Court Judge offers tutorial Part Deux: Judge Sarah Vance Educates Insurers about Federal Court Jurisdiction in False Claims Act Cases – A Branch Qui Tam Update

The long and short of Judge Vance’s latest order in the Branch Qui Tam case is LETS GET IT ON BECAUSE THIS BABY IS HEADED TO TRIAL. In a 69 page order and reasons Judge Vance lays out a well reasoned legal opinion with only one hiccup for the plaintiffs which we find on page 54:

Pilot Catastrophe Services, Crawford & Company, and NCA Group must be dismissed without prejudice

But even there the news isn’t so bad for the good guys as Judge Vance continues:

the Court grants Branch the opportunity to amend its complaint to allege an adequate factual basis for its allegations.

Rebecca Mowbray at the Times Picayune picks up the coverage:

The whistleblower suit alleging that insurance companies overbilled the National Flood Insurance Program for flood damage so they could get away with paying policyholders less money for wind damage from Hurricane Katrina is about to begin subpoenaing claim files to get to the heart of the case.

Thanks to a 69-page ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Vance Monday that severed several adjusting firms from the proceedings, the procedural phase of the case is over after two years of motions and appeals.

“We’re now in a position where we can start discovery,” said Allan Kanner, attorney for the Branch Consultants, a group of former insurance adjusters who discovered unusual patterns of how insurers allocated the bills for hurricane damage, and filed suit. “While it doesn’t eclipse the Saints’ victory, it’s one of the best things that’s happened to us in a long time.”

After Katrina, the Federal Emergency Management Agency loosened some of the requirements for documenting flood claims to try to speed the assessments of damage. But the Branch Consultants believe that that move created an opportunity for insurance companies to falsely pump up estimates of flood damage at homes and reduce estimates for wind damage. Flood claims are paid by the government, and wind claims are covered by private homeowners insurance policies, so the alleged move is a way to pay policyholders without having as much money come out of insurers’ pockets.

The insurance industry says the claims are without merit.

The whistleblower suit will move forward, but it is greatly diminished from when it was originally filed.

State Farm and Allstate, which together account for half of the homeowners policies in the state, have been removed from the proceedings. In Vance’s ruling, three adjusting firms — NCA Group, Crawford & Co. and Pilot Catastrophe Services — were also severed from the case.

Remaining defendants include the Standard Fire Insurance Co., better known as Travelers; Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company; American National Property & Casualty Company; Fidelity National Property and Casualty Insurance Company; American Reliable Insurance Co.; Colonial Claims Corp.; and Simsol Insurance Services, Inc

Hey Rossie, how you doing honey?

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2 thoughts on “Federal District Court Judge offers tutorial Part Deux: Judge Sarah Vance Educates Insurers about Federal Court Jurisdiction in False Claims Act Cases – A Branch Qui Tam Update”

  1. Who is the big fish, James – and I agree about Judge Vance. I’m so impressed with the range and depth of research reflected in her work.

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