Judge Senter dismisses jury briefly, suggests State Farm settle with Bossier (can you belive it?)

State Farm attorney Ben Mullen said the Mississippi Supreme Court only recently clarified that insurance companies bear the burden to prove water caused a loss before payment is denied.

Senter corrected him, saying, “That’s been the law since 1910, counsel.”

Anita Lee – of course – has the story for the Sun Herald – and what a story it is!  According to Lee, it all started when Bossier had just finished presenting evidence that he should be paid policy limits of $650,000 on his Hurricane Katrina claim.

Senter dismissed the jury, then heard State Farm’s argument that the policyholder’s case was so weak the judge should dismiss it without rebuttal from the insurance company. Senter rejected the motion, then suggested State Farm consider making an offer to policyholder Reginald “Ed” Bossier that would end the trial.

Senter said the record so far includes “some pretty tough stuff” pertaining to the insurance company. “See what you can come up with,” Senter told the attorneys, “and everybody can come out of this with a degree of honor.”

Otherwise, Senter said, he might allow a second phase of trial in which the jury would consider whether State Farm handled the insurance claim in bad faith, entitling Bossier to punitive damages. Senter acknowledged, however, that he has heard only half the case and could change his mind. The case could move to a punitive damages phase only if the jury first decides Bossier’s claim was underpaid.

In suggesting a settlement, Senter pointed out that he has handled about 2,400 Katrina cases. Most have settled without trial.

Now, folks, if someone had promised to be there for you when you purchased your policy but was only there for themselves when you needed them, would money alone be justice? If I were Bossier, the mere mention of the word settlement would send me looking for one of those “Hell no!” buttons Gene Taylor was wishing  for when Congress voted on the bailout – but I digress and this is Anita Lee’s story:

Insurance companies are required to thoroughly investigate policyholder claims and promptly pay what is owed. Bossier’s attorney, Judy Guice, has presented evidence that the insurance company offered Bossier only $2,300 for a home that was gutted, with a heavily damaged ceiling, insulation hanging in the attic, roof and siding damage and an exterior wall stripped above the roof line.

A forensic engineer testified that he measured the water line on interior Sheetrock at 3.5 feet, but State Farm contends the water line was closer to 8 feet.

The company argues tidal surge, covered by federal flood rather than private insurance policies, caused most of the Bossier’s damage.

State Farm waited four years to compensate the Bossiers for an outbuilding that, according to an eyewitness, was gone after the roaring sound of a tornado passed and before the tide rose. The payment came as the case headed toward trial. Also, the company erred in calculating what was owed for roof and siding damage, correcting the $13,000 mistake with a check in January 2008.

Guice also presented evidence that the company trained adjusters to deny claims involving both wind and water unless independent wind damage could be found to “separate portions” of the property, language that is not included in the policy.

State Farm attorney Ben Mullen said the Mississippi Supreme Court only recently clarified that insurance companies bear the burden to prove water caused a loss before payment is denied.

Senter corrected him, saying, “That’s been the law since 1910, counsel.”

Remember you heard it here first – Corban for Dummies.

Earlier, Lee had filed a brief update on the Bossier trial.

Few spectators occupy the benches in U.S. District Court where the policyholder lawsuit Bossier vs. State Farm is being tried this week, a far cry from the months after Hurricane Katrina when policyholders, attorneys and the media crowded into the courtroom for wind vs. water debates.

State Farm has sent a public relations employee to sit through the trial. An attorney from the insurance company’s corporate office has taken notes from the spectator seats throughout the case.

Attorney Judy Guice is representing policyholder Reginald “Ed” Bossier, a retired Biloxi businessman who once owned Hook, Line & Sinker Restaurant and the Cajun RV Park on U.S. 90. He contends Katrina’s wind devastated his Back Bay home in North Biloxi from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. on Aug. 29, before water rose to 3.5 feet in his house. Forensic engineer Ted Biddy testified to the wind’s destruction Wednesday morning.

Attorneys Ben Mullen and John Banahan are representing State Farm. The insurance company claims water destroyed Bossier’s house and that the water line was closer to 8 feet. In cross-examining Biddy, Mullen attempted to show the jury contradictions between Biddy’s opinions and earlier testimony from an eyewitness who described the roar of a tornado in the area at 7:30 a.m., followed by rapidly rising water. Biddy said the water rose gradually.

Maybe the public relations employee State Farm had in court will figure out the problem is that the Company has believed its own press.

6 thoughts on “Judge Senter dismisses jury briefly, suggests State Farm settle with Bossier (can you belive it?)”

  1. I see all this a little differently. Man gets shafted by SF – nothing new there. SF puts him through years of misery and thousands in costs, depositions, phony discovery wars, and on and on. All for payment of contract debt.

    Fours year later, judge announces at trial — after 10’s of thousands have been spent to get a contract debt paid — SF needs to settle. Even then, SF attorneys still illogically, obstinately argue.

    Media spins that Judge is calling out SF, praise to the federal court . . . “yeah baby . . . stick it to them!”

    Non-sense. Where was this federal court for the 4 years of misery and dishonesty SF put this guy through? Four years later the judge tantalizes the Plaintiff by showing he acknowledges SF and their corrupt lawyers are lying sacks of s—. What about the hundreds upon hundreds of instances where this was made apparent in the record of cases in this same court?

    Folks, any system that dysfunctional simply needs to be deconstructed from the top down, and start over. It’s a sham.

  2. Juriscribe speaking of dysfunctional I suspect Magistrate Walker has been berating the Bossiers for the past 4 years at the various settelment conferences telling them their case was next to worthless and how they should take pennies on the dollar on their contract (they paid 100 cents on the dollar to buy) and be happy with that.

    State Farm isn’t going to settle this case – the reason it is at trial is because they are counting on Edith Jones and her band of idiots at the 5th Circuit to again fuck up well established case law or as Judge Senter put it, the law since 1910.

    Finally I wonder what it is like for Ben Mullens to be exposed for the legal charlaton he has become. Lawyers whom I believe to be ethical tell me they would never take such a dog shit case into the courtroom to begin with. One thing I’ve found doing this blog is there is no shortage of insurance defense types who will do anything (and I mean anything) to keep on the corporate dole screwing over people in their own communities so that Ed Eust can pass out bigger bonuses in Bloomington.

    sop

  3. Juriscribe’s comments are projected through the prism of a man who’s obviously “been there; done that”, and I agree with him. It’s a little late in the game for “the Court System” to be “strong-arming” SF. Translate: This gives State Farm the opportunity to “low-ball” Bossier, in accordance with the “suggestion” by Judge Senter that they make a settlement offer, and if State Farm makes an offer that Bossier rejects, then Bossier becomes that “bad guy” and Senter will start “leaning” on Bossier and his counsel. In the meantime. the jury is kept waiting and confused about precisely what is happening.Believe me, this Judge knows PRECISELY how the game is played, and has had it play out in his Court for decades. The things he has said already “on-the -record” are a bit unusual, because these things are usually said “off-the -record”, in Chambers, rather than “on-the-record” in open Court, outside the presence of the jury. Judge Senter has set up a situation where he “can’t lose”, and can later “strong-arm” SF or Bossier, as will be dictated by what unfolds. Bossier and his counsel should “hang tough” and not allow Judge Senter and State Farm to back them into a corner, making Mr. Bossier the “bad guy” in the process. Who becomes “the bad guy” is important after the jury returns its verdict. If SF loses “big time”, then SF shouldn’t expect too much “help” from the Judge in terms of post-trial motions and what is known as “remittitur”, which is another name for “jury verdict nullification”, which a Judge is empowered to do if he has made a perfect record, as Judge Senter is doing. on the other hand, if the verdict isn’t as much as Bossier wanted, then Judge Senter will NEVER allow the case to get to “Phase 2”, and Bossier will feel “short-changed”, notwithstanding Judge Senter’s being in a position to gleefully tell Bossier: “I TOLD you to accept that settlement offer.” This is all a big GAME and Judge Senter, at least, seems to be playing it well, as he obviously has done many times before.

  4. Senter is dead on, especially with his comment about burden of proof. I have the State Farm and Worley adjsting materials which were used prior to Katrina and those materials cleraly and succinctly state that State Farm has the burden of proof. I would blow those suckers up and put them next to counsel’s statement and then look at the jury.

    I go back to my original post—- this jury needs to clobber them because Senter won’t touch it. However, Judy Guice needs to make that record air tight with respect to punitives because the 5th will likely not allow a Weiss type punitive Judgment to stand and certainly won’t if there is even one iota of evidence missing needed to support the award.

    Lastly, anything short of policy limits plus a sizeable penalty is a loss in my opinion. I suspect State Farm has already offered around $700,000 to settle already.

  5. AD is imparting some true knowledge, privy only to those who are “insiders.” Courts — particularly but not exclusively federal courts — are pure bureaucracies masquerading as Perry Mason trial centers. As a bureaucracy with the same “genome” as FEMA, the Post Office or a thousand other agency cadavers, they have little or no interest in trying lawsuits. In fact, the official agencies overseeing the federal courts press constantly for statistics on case resolution. The federal court’s funding is even tied to their stats on case filings and case resolution. Something in the range of 5% of all civil cases ever filed, are resolved by jury verdict. The idea that federal courts function as a place for people to “have their day in Court” is an illusory notion, created and furthered by the people in the court system who spend most of their time figuring out how not to work, yet at the same time keep the system funded.

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