State Farm "dickin" around in Kentucky (part 2) – a Rigsby qui tam update

“SLF does not dispute that it made no attempt to retrieve the responsive documents that it sent to Don Barrett, a former member of the Scruggs Katrina Group who was also disqualified from representing hundreds of plaintiffs in Hurricane Katrina related cases against State Farm due to ethical violations…SLF sent the documents in question to Mr. Barrett, a lawyer who, due to unethical conduct, was disqualified from representing plaintiffs in Hurricane Katrina cases against State Farm.” (State Farm’s Reply re Motion to Compel Compliance, eastern district KY federal court)

State Farm’s attempt to cast Barrett in an unfavorable light in the Company’s most recent filing may hold sway with a Kentucky judge unknowing of the truth about Barrett’s disqualification stated in Judge Senter’s related Order in McIntosh v State Farm:

“When Scruggs and two other members of the Scruggs Law Firm withdrew as counsel of record in this case, Barrett, Nutt, and Lovelace regrouped and formed the Katrina Litigation Group (KLG)…State Farm and Renfroe have moved to disqualify the members of the KLG on the grounds that Scruggs, acting on behalf of the SKG, engaged in unethical conduct that is sufficiently egregious to justify disqualification of the other SKG joint venturers in order to preserve the integrity of the judicial process and to assure public confidence in the litigation of this case and the other similar cases now pending in this Court…I have determined that disqualification is required because Scruggs, acting in furtherance of the SKG joint venture, paid the Rigsby sisters a substantial sum of money (a consulting fee of $150,000 per year) despite Scruggs’s knowledge that the Rigsby sisters were material witnesses in connection with many hurricane damage claims that were likely to become the subject of litigation.” (emphasis added)

Frankly, as much as I admire Judge Senter, I firmly believe the disqualification of the SKG/KLG member firms was and remains a great injustice – one likely attributable, at least in part, to the influence of a blog-reading law clerk.  Before the indictment of Dick Scruggs, Judge Senter, knowing of the payment to the Rigsby sisters, denied State Farm’s first motion and was upheld by the 5th Circuit when State Farm appealed.   Had the court’s clerk(s) read case documents instead, it is likely there would have been a different outcome.  For example, I pulled this text from a document on the McIntosh docket as a reminder for follow-up research on both the disqualification and the payment of the Rigsby sisters:

“SF’s Motion to Disqualify is utter hypocrisy, because SF has repeatedly paid fact witnesses in Hurricane Katrina Litigation. In the Bridgewater v. State Farm case, U.S.D.C. for So. Dist. of Miss. docket number 1:07-cv-1273-HSO-JMR, the plaintiffs’ property had been inspected by The Structures Group, who thus became a fact witness. Once in litigation, SF hired The Structures Group to be its paid consultant/expert. See SF’s Expert Designation, Austin, et al v. State Farm, U.S.D.C. for So. Dist. of Miss. docket number 1:07-cv-007-LTS-RHW.

Under its own theory of the law, SF has bribed a fact witness and, in so doing, also violated binding rules of ethics. Under SF’s theory of the law, SF’s Counsel should be disqualified from this and all other Hurricane Katrina litigation…

SF has engaged in similar conduct in other cases and in association with other engineering firms who were also fact witnesses. For instance, in Gordon v. State Farm, U.S.D.C. for So. Dist. of Miss. docket number 1:07-cv-745-LTS-RHW, the plaintiffs’ property had been inspected by Wiss, Janney, Elstner & Associates. Once in litigation, SF hired Wiss, Janney, Elstner & Associates to be its paid consultant/expert. See SF’s Expert Designation, Alford v. State Farm, U.S.D.C. for So. Dist. of Miss. docket number 1:07-cv-814-LTS-RHW.

In fact, for the first 19 of what is commonly referred to as the “State Farm 178 cases”, State Farm has designated The Structures Group as its engineering experts in seven of the cases, and designated Wiss, Janney, Elstner & Associates as its experts in the remaining twelve cases…

In fact, under SF’s theory, its own conduct is far worse than Plaintiffs’ Counsel’s because no consulting arrangement ever materialized between Plaintiffs’ Counsel and Mr. Ford. He was never hired, never paid, and never identified as an expert. SF, in contrast, repeatedly and systematically consummated paid consulting arrangements for known fact witnesses. According to SF, what it did amounts to the buying of testimony from a fact witness in violation of the federal anti-bribery statute, 18 USC 20l.

Plaintiffs respectfully submit that the Court should not tolerate SF’s conduct, whereby on one hand it hires and pays fact witnesses as “experts” or “consultants” and then, on the other hand, aggressively advances its Motion to Disqualify attacking consulting arrangements with fact witnesses (including unconsummated ones). The Court and the judicial process are being abused right alongside the Plaintiffs.” (emphasis added)

A lawyer friend of mine has suggested such half-truths are “legal advocacy” – and, maybe so, if in lawyer-speak “legal advocacy” translates to a “license to lie”.  However, those like myself who lack the benefit of legal training, must instead rely on what our parents taught us – namely, there is no such thing as a half-truth and what isn’t the whole truth is a lie.

Meanwhile, State Farm continues “dick-in” around in Kentucky – just like the Company has been “dick-in” around in Mississippi since Katrina while the SLABBED want nothing more than justice based on the merits of the Rigsbys’ case.

(assuming my computer is in a more cooperative state later, document links will be added)

2 thoughts on “State Farm "dickin" around in Kentucky (part 2) – a Rigsby qui tam update”

  1. I agree whole heartedly with the SF hypocrisy on display. However, I am not aware of any rule that prohibits a witness from being both a “fact” and “expert” witness. For example, if during the loss adjustment stage an engineering firm is hired to inspect property and render an opinion about the cause of damage. I believe the witness is both a fact witness and possibly an expert witness. Fact witness because the witness was hired not for litigation, but for adjustment and expert based on the qualifications.

    Just my thoughts… .

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