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, Continue reading “State Farm "dickin" around in Kentucky (part 2) – a Rigsby qui tam update”

no one knows what goes on behind closed doors but O’Keefe wants to open the door to State Farm Mutual and find out!

TEXT ONLY ORDER denying Plaintiffs’ request for a hearing on their Motions to Amend and to Expedite. The Court, in its discretion, does not find that oral argument would be necessary or helpful in deciding the Motions. Pursuant to Uniform Local Rule 7.2(F)(1), the Court shall decide Plaintiffs’ Motions without a hearing or oral argument. NO FURTHER WRITTEN ORDER WILL ISSUE FROM THE COURT REGARDING THIS REQUEST. Signed by District Judge Halil S. Ozerden on 9/2/2009. (EMN) (Entered: 09/02/2009)

Oh, no-one knows what goes on behind closed doors. Behind closed doors.

The next day, Judge Ozerden issued an Order granting in-part O’Keefe’s Motion to file an amended complaint.  O’Keefes counsel, Christopher Van Cleave, was sitting on ready and the day after Ozerden’s Order issued, he filed a Motion to Alter or Amend the Findings and/or Judgment of the Court; for a New Trial on and/or Seeking Relief from the Court’s Order...

First, a look at the Order – and be sure to read the feeling is Mutual – and so is the fact for background on the issue and a look at the chart showing the relationship of State Farm Mutual to State Farm Fire.

…the Court is of the opinion that Plaintiffs’ Motion should be granted to the extent that it seeks to amend Plaintiffs’ claims against the existing Defendants in this case.

The remaining question is whether Plaintiffs should be permitted to amend their Complaint to add an additional Defendant, State Farm Mutual. State Farm Fire maintains…that allowing Plaintiffs to amend their Complaint to add this Defendant would result in undue delay and would be futile.

Obviously, behind closed doors, Ozerden directed his attention to State Farm’s claims of futility.  The irony was lost and he included a relatively lengthy discussion of futility in his Order before toeing the parte line: Continue reading “no one knows what goes on behind closed doors but O’Keefe wants to open the door to State Farm Mutual and find out!”