State Farm’s Protective Orders are Dispositive Motions in disguise – more games scheduled for the qui tam Olympics

Companies will soon learn that the best protection and defense against a potentially serious and morale lessening whistleblower suit is to have in place a corporate culture that emphasizes ethical conduct by all involved in the company.

In contrast to the opinion expressed in a lecture at the Brookings Institute, the dockets of Katrina litigation provide ample evidence that the corporate culture of State Farm is one that, instead, views a protective order as the Company’s best protection and defense.  At SLABBED we call the tactic gutting a case to settlement.  However, by any name,  the process begins with a protective order that consistently ends up disposing of so much evidence it effectively disposes of most plaintiffs’ Constitutional right to a jury trial and, in turn, either disposes of the case itself or forces settlement,.

SLABBED has published numerous posts documenting how the routine protective orders granted State Farm have repeatedly been used to shield damaging evidence of State Farm’s claims handling following Katrina. One such post quoted a plaintiff’s attorney who wrote:

It is black-letter law that a litigant who might be embarrassed, incriminated, or exposed to litigation through dissemination of materials is not, without more, entitled to the Court’s protection. Stated otherwise, those types of harm do not constitute “good cause” for entry of a protective order under the Rules…

State Farm has not right to an automatic protection from the public being granted access to evidence of its misconduct in the arena of responding to Hurricane Katrina claims in Mississippi.

Discovery in a qui tam case, more than any other, should be transparent for the Relators stand in the place of the USA which in turn represents the public interest.  We the people, therefore, have a concomitant right to know.  Nonetheless, as SLABBED recently reported in Qui Tam Olympics – the protection game: ex rel Rigsby v State Farm, State Farm filed for a Protective Order seeking to limit the Rigsbys’ discovery. Counsel for the Rigsbys has now filed the Relators’ Response in Opposition :

State Farm asserts that the contested discovery requests “do not pertain to the McIntosh flood claim and amount to mere speculation by the Rigsbys of the type that has been condemned by this Court.” State Farm’s Motion at 6. In fact, the Relators have tailored carefully their discovery requests based on this Court’s August 10, 2009 Order…and  this Court’s related rulings in individual policyholder cases. Accordingly, all of the discovery sought by the Relators seeks information that may lead to admissible evidence regarding whether the Defendants submitted a false claim with respect the McIntosh flood claim. Continue reading “State Farm’s Protective Orders are Dispositive Motions in disguise – more games scheduled for the qui tam Olympics”

Behind door #1 – Xactware come on down!

A number of complaints have been filed with the Justice Department regarding what appears to be an effort to fix prices in the property insurance claims repair business. It involves a company called Xactware, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Insurance Services Organization.

The writer,  an independent business owner, was concerned because the practices in question impact my business, my employees and my family – raising the question:  What practices?

As a practice, insurers, through their adjusting procedures, attempt to impose compliance with these “pricelists” by contractors as a broad group. Because of Xactimate’s position in the industry, at the very least I believe they should be enjoined from presenting their data as a “pricelist”.”

Again, a question is raised: What is Xactware’s data in Xactimate if it isn’t a “pricelist”?

They produce a pricing database, which they market as a “pricelist”, which is actually a database of information of previously submitted settlement numbers for typical processes heavily dependent on “feedback” from insurance companies and from captive contractors who have agreements with those insurers to use the database as a “pricelist”. This methodology results in a self-fulfilling prophecy as insurers and their contracted companies feed back information to establish a “pricelist”…

There is also no doubt that these so-called price lists can be manipulated BOTH downwards and upwards if the client requesting the “price” has a vested interest in doing so.

But, wait, “these client” are insurers –  insurers that own a controlling interest in ISO and ISO owns Xactware. Continue reading “Behind door #1 – Xactware come on down!”