Breaking News! Judge Senter’s issues two Orders in Rigsby qui tam – makes it clear he’s the boss, will hold December 1 Status Conference and reschedule trial

Well, State Farm’s proposed juror questionnaire obviously didn’t tickle Judge Senter’s funnybone like it did mine, nor did he find it as valuable as Sock.  However, there’s no guessing what he thought as he issued an Opinion – Order denying State Farm’s motion today and made his thinking exceedingly clear:

In the past I have used a juror questionnaire consisting of a single yes or no question: “Do you or any member of your family have a pending lawsuit for Hurricane Katrina damages, or have you had such a lawsuit in the past?” This questionnaire has worked well in the past as a means of screening jurors who would be subject to dismissal for cause without creating any of the problems outlined above. I will follow this same procedure in this case.

He actually said a bit more about his objections but I need to move quickly to the other order Judge Senter issued today because I, first, have to apologize for leaving a related October 5, 2010 Orderr lingering in my bulging “drafts file”.

I will decline at this time to vacate my order of dismissal until I reach the merits of the USA’s objection to this settlement…negotiated between Relators and Forensic Analysis and Engineering, Inc. (Forensic)…the United States of America shall have a period of twenty days within which to make known any objection it may have to the terms of the settlement at issue by the filing of appropriate pleadings; and Since the United States of America is not a party to this action, I will allow the Relators and the other parties a period of ten days from the date the United States files its pleadings to respond through pleadings addressing the issues raised by the United States. (emphasis added)

The USA was johnny felicia-on-the-spot and a few days early filing the government’s Notice of Rejection of Settlement…and Motion to Dismiss…[Forensic]Without Prejudice – but I suppose an assistant US Attorney pays more attention when reportedly under consideration for the top spot.  Nonetheless, the government has a history of untimely filing in the Rigsby qui tam case that includes a nunc pro tunc January 11, 2007 Application for a Second Six-Month Extension of Time to Consider Election to Intervene.

Judge Senter may or may not have been surprised by the timing of the government’s filing but hisOrder Continuing Trial and Setting Status Conference clearly indicates he was perplexed by the government’s position. Continue reading “Breaking News! Judge Senter’s issues two Orders in Rigsby qui tam – makes it clear he’s the boss, will hold December 1 Status Conference and reschedule trial”

Surely Allstate doesn’t think Judge Sarah Vance is the “other brother Darryl” – “good hands” trying to put words in her mouth (a Branch qui tam updaate)

Left to right: Larry, his "other brother Darryl, and his "brother Darryl"

In my most recent post on the three Katrina qui tam cases, I compared Allstate to  Larry, the character on the old Newhart show who spoke for his two mute brothers – “my brother Darryl and my other brother Darryl”.   This update on the Branch Consultants’ qui tam case is the first of three follow-up posts, each focusing on a single case.  While Louisiana federal district Judge Sarah Vance is not only more attractive than Larry’s “other brother Darryl”, pictured center in photo on the right, one might think she, too, mute given Allstate’s attempt to put words in her mouth.

Allstate certainly has good reason to be concerned.  The Company has the distinction of being a named defendant in all the Katrina qui tam cases.  Allstate argues it is a distinction without a difference and that, on that basis,  Judge Vance lacks jurisdiction under the “first to file” requirement of the FCA (False Claims Act). A related SLABBED post,  Allstate files Answer in Branch – and this I couldn’t make up!, introduced Allstate’s position; i.e., the Rigsby sisters were the first to file.

Despite having once invited Branch counsel Allen Kanner to “kiss my***ex rel“, I do not believe Judge Vance can determine jurisdiction until discovery has been completed in Branch, the recently unsealed ex rel Denenea v Allstate and Rigsby with the scope of expanded.   Allstate represents the FCA restriction on similar claims too narrowly, IMO, but more importantly, there is currently no way to know for certain.

My position, however, is contrary to the strategy of the “wool-over-court’s-eye” scheme concocted, or so I believe, by Allstate and other insurers as an element in the overall scheme of fraudulent claims handling that followed Hurricane Katrina – and it is the context of that wet-dog smelling scheme unraveling before Judge Vance that we examined the current status of the Branch Consultants’ qui tam case.

If you knit, you know that a dropped stitch can’t be covered.  Magistrate Shushan’s recent Orders make it clear that dropping a stitch in a “wool-over-court’s-eye” scheme also can’t be covered. Continue reading “Surely Allstate doesn’t think Judge Sarah Vance is the “other brother Darryl” – “good hands” trying to put words in her mouth (a Branch qui tam updaate)”