State Farm "dickin" around in Kentucky while Forensic releases settlement agreement with the Rigsbys – A Rigsby qui tam update

“It is my conclusion that the envelope of the structure was ruptured by wind and wind-driven debristhat allowed the winds and debris to enter the home and cause interior damage.” October 10, 2007 Deposition of Brian Ford in McIntosh v State Farm(13-16, page 80)

Brian Ford’s engineering report on damage to the McIntosh property is central to the merits of the Rigsbys’ qui tam case.  When the deposition of former Forensic’s engineer Brian Ford continued on January 11, 2008, State Farm launched an all-out attack on Mr. Ford’s credibility that continues to this day.

During that deposition, Ford was asked if the Scruggs Katrina Group (SKG) had paid him for any services.  Ford’s testimony on lines 6 – 22 of deposition page 337 follows:

Q Do you have an understanding, either expressed or implied, that Mr. Wyatt, Mr. Scruggs, David Nutt, Meg McAlister, or anybody from the SKG or Katrina litigation group is going to pay you something for your services today?
A No.
Q Have they paid you anything to-date?
A No.
Q Have you asked for payment?
A No. We discussed a consulting service agreement many months ago and we never reached an agreement. We never consummated an agreement. And I haven’t provided a service and they haven’t paid for it.
Q You have provided no services?
A I haven’t provided them consulting services, no.

State Farm’s attempt to make fantasy into reality had reached such a fevered pitch by January 2008 that Ford refuted the Company’s allegations and innuendo in an Affidavit that should have put an end to State Farm’s game.

Fast forward to July 2010 and, despite already having all the answers, State Farm is “dickin” around and playing its Brian Ford fantasy game in the Eastern District Kentucky Federal Court:

SLF should be compelled to secure Mr. Scruggs’s full cooperation with its discovery obligations. Finally, as State Farm explained in its opening brief, should Mr. Scruggs decide not to acooperate with SLF – even in part – on the basis of a purported Fifth Amendment privilege, sanctions against SLF are appropriate.

Since I’m not a lawyer, I have no idea of the legal term for “an Aha moment” but I know one when I see it and this is definitely one. Aha! State Farm is so desperate – and so guilty – that the Company’s only hope is to create a “Scruggs sideshow”!  However, if the Company keeps “dickin” around in Kentucky someone is going to do the math and question why Forensic’s settlement agreement with the Rigsby sisters only mentions 19 policyholder claims with two engineering reports.

A look at Forensic’s admissions, however, provides ample evidence of State Farm’s compelling need to go “dickin” around in Kentucky:

WHEREAS Forensic admits that it understood State Farm’s financial interest in having engineering reports submitted by Forensic that attributed the cause of storm damage to flood rather than storm winds;

WHEREAS  Forensic admits that it believed State Farm would not continue employing Forensic unless Forensic agreed with State Farm’s assessment that the properties where
secondary reports were requested were damaged predominately by water instead of wind and focused on any possible evidence of flood damage to support that finding;

WHEREAS Forensic admits that at State Farm’s request, Forensic sent a second professional engineer t0 re-evaluate 19 loss sites, and Forensic admits that it changed the conclusions in those 19 reports based on the second engineer’s inspection and after the initial reports were already sent to State Farm;

WHEREAS Forensic admits that it was asked not to perform a thorough structural evaluation or cost appraisal of the amount of damage identified at a given site, and Forensic agreed to follow State Farm’s instructions to describe only the predominant cause of damage to a home when attributing that damage to wind or flood;

WHEREAS Forensic admits that for certain properties it submitted subsequent reports that did not reference the existence of the initial report and that such a practice allowed State Farm t0 have the option of either removing and replacing the initial report in its file if it so chose…

Tip of the iceberg!  Could this be the reason State Farm is withdrawing from the NFIP’s Write Your Own Program?

16 thoughts on “State Farm "dickin" around in Kentucky while Forensic releases settlement agreement with the Rigsbys – A Rigsby qui tam update”

  1. “Aha” to you, too, Belle! Good thing SF doesn’t have shareholders with all these lawyers running up big bills to compel various parties to give them what they already have!

  2. This settlement agreement is the double-edged sword if I’ve ever seen it. But, it really does not tell us anything we did not already know, except for the fact that Forensic would be unable to pay a large judgment . . . but maybe we should have known that.

  3. Sockpup, they admit to having first hand evidence to prove that what the relators have alleged all along! That is much more than not having money.

  4. Well, it tells us they’re just admitting to 19 policyholder claims with dual reports – and that just doesn’t seem to add up.

  5. Belle: I agree with Nowdy. It does not add up on a strictly random chance basis. Only 19 out of how many claims? Put in criminal law context many times the perp is charged with 10 violations and pleads to 5. I for one, having mediated Katrina Insurance claims find it hard to believe they didn’t have loads more cases with dual reports. It is like the signs in parking garages telling patrons that the garage is not responsible for anything. Totally false on a legal basis but shown to run off a good percentage of valid claims. Playing the odds that more will not catch them cheating than will. But then again I am in Jefferson Crookville Parish.

  6. It’s possible that they did only have 19, but I don’t think that hurts the Rigsby sisters at all. 19 is plenty when you consider Lecky King’s strong reaction, coupled with how slowly these engineering reports were being issued. In Louisiana State Farm was not even retaining engineers, unless they were sued. Then SF started its ex post facto justification for its denials.

    Once it was made clear to Forensic and the smaller engineering firms what State Farm’s m.o. was, they were not going to write reports like those early reports in McIntosh and risk losing the red and white goose that was laying the golden eggs. Rimkus and Haag were old pros at this, and each had manuals stilted toward everything being flood. So, they did not need any coaxing. It happened in Louisiana (reports attributing the primary damage to wind) early on with some non-hack engineering firms, but then you did not see many reports from these firms later.

    I’m still a little confounded by the settlement agreement. The jury will never see it because evidence regarding settlement negotiations is not admissible. Maybe the Rigsby’s lawyers intend to redact the “admissions” and reserve the right to use them as impeachment. Or, maybe the Govt. requires such a detailed settlement agreement in a qui tam case.

  7. I’m just trying figure out where they got the number (19) – for example, does the 19 include the 18 policyholder claims with two reports in the RICO case plus McIntosh? If so, what about the claims like Mullins that were “settled” in the settlement with SKG? Brian Ford testified he did something like 40 reports; so, after Ford was fired, did they change some internally before they turned them in? Then, there was someone else doing reports for Forensic and an email string about the report on one of his cases. Plus, when the RICO case was filed, there were still hundreds that were waiting in the wings, so to speak.

  8. Great questions. Unfortunately, these types of answerable questions often remain unanswered in litigation. This is the direct result of the attitude of the “gatekeeper” (i.e. Fed. Mag.) in discovery matters, as Nowdy is too painfully aware. Attempts to get the answers to these questions are usually deemed: “harassment,” “fishing expedition,” “overly broad,” “unduly burdensome,” etc. Additionally, courts are still wrestling with the concept of electronic discovery, including forensic analysis of ALL hard drives that might provide answers to these questions. In a Zurich case, I was lucky enough to have the state court judge order such an analysis, but the Zurich employee (and Zurich’s lawyers) took the position that the subject computer had been “thrown away” long before it was ordered examined. My attempts to have access to the main server really went nowhere.

    So, the bottom line is that sometimes you have a pretty good idea as to how to go about answering these mysteries, but the gatekeeper will not permit it.

  9. IMA:

    You’re the only person who could have read that comment and identified Saintsman. I give you a gold star for the day. And next time you’re across the pond, I’ll buy you lunch.

  10. Maybe there are only 19 reports that they changed. After that, they didn’t need to change anymore reports because they just attributed them all to flood, like what State Farm asked them to do.

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