Well here is another nice mess you’ve gotten me into Part Deux: Judge Senter lowers the boom on the topic of State Farm’s cancerous Katrina claims handling. Slabbed Congratulates Henry and June Kuehn

laurel and hardyI suspect the appraisal panel for Henry and June Kuehn must be feeling good that the product of their honest day’s work was affirmed in total, especially State Farm’s boogey man Lewis O’Leary.

Judge Senter doesn’t seem amused by the jackassery of State Farm’s Oxford Mississippi based lawyers Scot Spragins and Lucky Tucker of Hickman, Goza and Spragins.

What we’ve found on slabbed is that some lawyers and law firms will do anything to stay on the insurance defense money train. It is our hope that the Kuehn’s lawyer will re-file motions to have the dysfunctional duo booted from the case as they are witnesses to an extraordinary act of insurance bad faith. Our readers will no doubt recall the original motion was dismissed without prejudice, meaning it could be brought back up when the moment was right.

The folks at the Denham law firm have done a tremendous job beclowning Spragins and Tucker while simultaneously laying bare State Farm’s sleazy methods of cheating  their homeless policyholders:

Minor testified he found Tucker’s instructions confusing and inconsistent with his (Minor’s) understanding of his responsibilities as an appraiser. Minor’s confusion and uncertainty concerning Tucker’s instructions were sufficient to prompt him to ask that Tucker either provide his instructions in writing or furnish a modified court order reflecting those instructions. Tucker declined Minor’s request for either of these forms of clarification. Although Tucker attended the evidentiary hearing, he did not take the witness stand to clarify or contradict what Minor had to say about their conversation.

Minor’s dissatisfaction was such that he asked Tucker to hire another appraiser and relieve him (Minor) of his responsibilities in this case. Tucker refused this request. Minor turned to Land and to other State Farm representatives for assistance in understanding his instructions, and Minor ultimately came away with the understanding he was to follow his ordinary practices in performing this appraisal. Minor testified that is exactly what he did.

After meeting together to discuss the damage they observed during the joint inspection of the plaintiffs’ residence, the members of the panel, at Minor’s instance, agreed all damage below the water line on the second floor would be excluded from consideration in the appraisal. The plaintiffs contended some of the damage below the Case 1:08-cv-00577-LTS-RHW Document 85 Filed 08/17/2009 Page 4 of 10 water line was attributable to covered wind and rain damage rather than exclusively to flooding, but plaintiffs’ representative, O’Leary, nevertheless agreed to exclude this damage from consideration. After discussing the damages they observed above the second-story water line, Minor, O’Leary, and Voelpel unanimously agreed the total covered loss was $174,881.80. The three members of the panel all signed a report reflecting this conclusion…….. Continue reading “Well here is another nice mess you’ve gotten me into Part Deux: Judge Senter lowers the boom on the topic of State Farm’s cancerous Katrina claims handling. Slabbed Congratulates Henry and June Kuehn”

Henry and June and the Topic of State Farm’s Cancerous Claims Handling: A Kuehn v State Farm Update (Updated)

Far from the claims handling equivalent of this literary masterpiece, the case of Kuehn v State Farm has more twists, turns and legal perversions than Anaïs Nin’s book on the writing of that literary masterpiece.  We’ve presented this case on Slabbed in part to highlight the bad faith methods State Farm, with the help of the Mississippi Department of Insurance, utilized to  adjust their slab claims on the coast after Katrina. Kuehn was also of interest because it gave us a chance to also highlight the type of lawyer State Farm uses to abuse the process in the proverbial “hired gun lawyer” in this case Oxford Mississippi based lawyers Scot Spragins and Lucky Tucker. On Monday of this week Nowdy profiled the fine mess the dufuses found themselves in after the plaintiff’s lawyer Earl Denham made them his beetchlaurel and hardy. Anita Lee covered the evidentiary hearing and frankly it doesn’t look good for Spragins or Tucker as State Farm had to take one for the team to save their hides (from being DQ’d as counsel) in the process laying bare their sleazy claims practices and the type of lawyer that will do anything (and I mean anything) to get on State Farm’s legal gravy train.

State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. argued in federal court Wednesday that the company should not have to pay policyholders $174,811.80 for Katrina damage attributed to wind because an umpire and two appraisers who set the amount strayed into determining the cause of loss.

State Farm policies give policyholders the option of appraisal when “the amount of the loss” is in dispute. Under Mississippi law, U.S. District Court Judge L.T. Senter Jr. has already ruled, appraisal is not meant to decide liability. State Farm polices cover wind damage, but loss from water is covered by federal flood insurance.

However, attorneys for policyholders Henry and June Kuehn of Ocean Springs presented evidence that only wind damage was considered during the appraisal process.

As provided under the policy, each side selected an appraiser and an umpire was appointed to resolve any disputes.

State Farm’s appraiser, John Minor, testified that only those damages above the water line were included in the appraisal award. The water line reached 2 feet onto the second floor of the Kuehn home.

Minor said a State Farm attorney who had offered confusing advice during the appraisal process was not happy with the result.

“I got chewed out,” Minor said.

He said he handled the Kuehn appraisal in the same way he did others for State Farm, but the attorney, Lawrence J. “Lucky” Tucker Jr., seemed to want the Kuehn appraisal handled differently. Continue reading “Henry and June and the Topic of State Farm’s Cancerous Claims Handling: A Kuehn v State Farm Update (Updated)”

Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into – Kuehn files Motion in limine to exclude Spragins and Tucker

laurel and hardy

Plaintiffs would show that any testimony that may be offered by Defendant’s counsel, H. Scot Spragins or Lawrence J. Tucker, should be prohibited and/or excluded. State Farm previously stated…that “State Farm’s counsel is not the only source of the information Plaintiffs seek. Moreover, any information they possesses [sic] is not relevant or crucial to the central issues in this case, i.e., the actual conduct of the appraisal and the propriety of the award.”

Of course, if Tucker and Spragins did have pertinent information, they and their law firm would be properly disqualified as counsel. However, based on State Farm’s representations, this Court denied (without prejudice) Plaintiffs’ Motion to Disqualify Counsel. Because Plaintiffs were thus disallowed from taking the testimony of Spragins and Tucker, they cannot now be allowed to come forward and testify in the evidentiary hearing scheduled before this Court on July 22, 2009…

SLABBED first reported the “fine mess” created by Spragins and Tucker Continue reading “Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into – Kuehn files Motion in limine to exclude Spragins and Tucker”

Henry and June plus Lewis and Scot: An Appraisal Story and Kuehn Update Prequel

I’ve kept fairly quiet since late April on Kuehn v State Farm, a case with a little something for everyone. We have the appraisal clause and State Farm ignoring it. We have a typical State Farm hired gun lawyer in Scot Spragins of Oxford Mississippi and the spectacle of Scot beclowing himself before an audience of political leaders, fellow lawyers and academics across the country as we profile his unethical behavior and abuses of the court system.

The Farm doesn’t break in litigation nor follow their contractual obligations easily and though I’ve been relatively absent here on the blog I’ve been loading up for bear on the concept of appraisal and how State Farm’s treatment of their own contract language in this case illustrates their bad behavior better than most. But before I post a comprehensive update I’d like to point out that just like Rossie’s New Appleman piece on Anti Concurrent Causation is the legal standard on the ACCs meaning and application, the book, The Law and Procedure of Insurance Appraisal by Jonathan J Wilkofsky Continue reading “Henry and June plus Lewis and Scot: An Appraisal Story and Kuehn Update Prequel”

A Kuehn Prequel Courtesy of Anita Lee at the Sun Herald

To give our readers a look back at Kuehn and how State Farm made up the rules as they went along in how they adjusted claims after Katrina lets visit with Anita Lee and a story she wrote back in May of 2006 on the Kuehns battle to get State Farm to honor their own policy provisions. An interesting sideline is the fact the Farm used George Dale and his screwed up mediation program as the reason to deny a valid policy provision. The article still exists on the internet courtesy of CorpWatch:

State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. refuses to engage in the appraisal process to resolve Hurricane Katrina claims, even though its own policy mandates appraisal on demand when the amount of an insured loss is in dispute.

Instead, records show, the company is urging policyholders to settle disputes through a mediation program sponsored by the Mississippi Department of Insurance and funded by insurers.

Two attorneys, one who was personally denied appraisal and another whose clients have been turned down, think they know why.

“State Farm is just plundering and victimizing its policyholders in the mediation process,” said Ocean Springs attorney Earl Denham. “That’s why they’re doing this. If you get in the appraisal process, they’re not going to be able to do that because somebody else makes the decision.”

Denham represents Henry and June Kuehn of Ocean Springs, who asked State Farm about appraisal after the company offered them only $10,765.48, minus depreciation and deductible, to cover the wind damage to their waterfront home.

A woman who identified herself as Tina, in a State Farm catastrophe office, told Kuehn in a conversation he taped April 17: “That’s what our management is saying. We’re not offering appraisal at all because mediation overrides it.” Continue reading “A Kuehn Prequel Courtesy of Anita Lee at the Sun Herald”

A Kuehn Appraisal Postscript: Hired Guns and Childrens Imagination Station v Prime Insurance Syndicate

Our posts on Kuehn v State Farm have created a good bit of buzz in certain insurance and legal circles as interested parties have flooded us with information on the appraisal clause, insurance cases involving appraisal and of course its misapplication in Dwyer which I profiled earlier today. Chip Merlin picked up our Kuehn coverage on his blog writing a couple of posts that copiously linked us. We’re grateful to be listed on Chip’s blogroll.

Unlike Chip I’ve never worked with Scot Spragins, the partner at Hickman, Goza & Spragins representing State Farm in Kuehn so I do not have that personal experience to add to my opinion of him. Like everyone else who hasn’t worked with Mr Spragins I only have the evidence submitted into the record of Kuehn to judge his professionalism by which I’ve concluded is very lacking. Simply put Mr Spragins and his firm are steppin’ out from literally hundreds of years of case law and insurance lore on both the appraisal clause and its application and he is smart enough to know it.

In my career as a CPA I’ve seen more than a few people refused legal services by ethical lawyers who recognized their prospective client’s legal position was contrary to established law. That is as it should be IMHO, practicing lawyers are the gatekeepers to our judicial system in respects and it keeps crap from clogging the court system. In looking at the Katrina insurance related litigation it has become clear there are certain lawyers, both plaintiff and insurance defense alike that will pump a dog legal position if the money is right. It is there that I still think Scot Spragins and his law firm resides.

Beyond the emails in the Kuehn evidentiary record we found there is a good bit of case law in this area. One such recent case was heard by Judge Louis Guirola little more than a year ago in the Children’s Imagination Station v Prime Insurance Syndicate that addressed these issues spot on. Like State Farm in Kuehn, Prime Synidcate was unhappy with the results of appraisal.  Unlike Kuehn and its blockbuster exhibition of bad faith by Team Spragins, Prime’s lawyers did not try to interfer with the process itself while the appraisal was ongoing. Prime simply tried to negate the results which was quickly bounced out of court house. I noted one final commonality with Kuehn in that appraiser Lewis O’Leary was involved, this time as umpire. Prime fought Children’s Imagination Station tooth and nail from ever getting the appraisal pursuant to the policy provisions, probably because they knew they lowballed the damage.  Here are some snippets from the granted motion for partial summary judgment against Prime: Continue reading “A Kuehn Appraisal Postscript: Hired Guns and Childrens Imagination Station v Prime Insurance Syndicate”

Kuehn v State Farm: From a simple ass to an ass-clown. Team State Farm sets new lows courtesy of the insurance defense bar.

Nowdy has been doing yeoman’s work keeping Slabbed stocked with material in my absence but when she emailed me the recent case activity in Kuehn v State Farm I knew it was time to get back into the game. To bring everyone up to speed I highly recommend Nowdy’s two previous posts on this case which can be found here and here.  The long story greatly shortened is the Kuehn’s invoked a policy provision called appraisal, a process involving three professionals that calculate the amount due under the policy in question. State Farm had “adjusted” the claim and paid the Kuehn’s the whopping sum of $10,765. The appraisers found $174,812 of covered damage. The Farm, through their Oxford based lawyers, went postal and now the case is before Judge Senter.

An interesting case twist came about during the deposition of State Farm appraiser John Minor in February of this year. During that depo it became very apparent State Farm lawyers H. Scot Spragins and Lucky Tucker had crossed the line from being legal advocates to agents of State Farm. When that fact became clear to Kuehn lawyer Earl Denham that such was indeed the case, Mr Minor’s depo was shut down with Mr Spragin’s acquiescence and State Farm hired new lawyers.

I wrote that short synopysis because I felt the need to refresh myself on the case. My memory’s reputation is impeccable but reading State Farm’s very curious case filings left me confused as to the events that lead us to this point – to the point where new State Farm lawyer John Banahan was misleading positing a rossmillerian fantasy of epic proportions.  IMHO these filings are of the type that wastes valuable court time and short changes other policyholders that have now been waiting over three and a half years for their day in court.

First Banahan begins by trying to salvage the reputations of Hal “Scot” Spragins and Lucky Tucker and their Oxford based law firm Hickman, Goza & Spragins with a rambling 19 page nonsensical response to the plaintiff’s DQ motion. There is no text in the document worth quoting as the brief has no basis in the reality of this case as it relies on the notion that three appraisers determined the cause of damage rather than the extent of covered damage, an assertion State Farm’s own appraiser vigorously denied. Continue reading “Kuehn v State Farm: From a simple ass to an ass-clown. Team State Farm sets new lows courtesy of the insurance defense bar.”

Double Trouble Doubled Down – Kuehn v State Farm

Remember the Kuehn’s of Double Trouble Kuehn v State Farm?

On February 28, 2008, the appraisal process concluded, and the umpire and the parties’ appraisers signed an Award setting forth the appraisal amount of $174,811.80…counsel for State Farm Fire told the appraisers and the umpire that the Award did not specify which part was for wind…the appraisers and umpire rewrote the Award to indicate that the entire amount was for wind damage.

Well, I ran into their case when I was looking at recent filings and decided to take a look and see how things were going.

We left them back in February shortly after Counsel for Plaintiffs learned during the deposition of State Farm’s designated appraiser, John Minor, on or about February 6, 2009, that counsel for State Farm will be, at the very least, necessary and material witnesses in this action. Counsel for State Farm recognized this fact and the deposition was halted.

John Banahan had just stepped in as new counsel for State Farm and requested an extension on the period of discovery on the appraisal issue until March 31 that would move the deadline for motions back to mid-April.

What happened between then and now would be easier to explain if this case had not bounced between state and federal court twice since  Hurricane Katrina. Wait, I take that back!  Let’s take a closer look at this case.

Hurricane Katrina ravaged their insured property, causing destruction to the structure and its contents.  On September 27, 2005 an adjuster for State Farm inspected the property.  The time line and documents that follow tell the story.

January 4, 2006
State Farm Fire…informed Plaintiffs that it would not cover the loss beyond what was already paid, which was $10,765.48.pages-from-kuehn-v-state-farm-41

April I, 2006 Continue reading “Double Trouble Doubled Down – Kuehn v State Farm”