“defense lawyers have been banking their money for years” – a lawyer’s perspective on Katrina litigation

“This is one of those cases where people see the verdict and the motion and think about all the money that the plaintiff’s lawyers will make. But the defense lawyers will make as much or more than the plaintiff lawyers while taking no risk. Equally as important, the defense lawyers have been banking their money for years while the plaintiff lawyers have to collect to fill a big hole.” (emphasis added)

In a comment to Katrina plantiffs win a big one, I mentioned Phillip Thomas at the Mississippi Litigation Review blog also had a post on Penthouse Homeowner’s Association v Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London.

Thomas’ blog is one of my daily reads and his most recent post on the case, Winning Plaintiff in Katrina Wind vs. Water Trial Requests $3.5 Million in Attorney’s Fees, Expenses and Interest, provided both the title and introductory quote of this post as well as a link to Plaintiffs’ attorney Don Barrett’s Motion (in Scribd format below with Exhibits added by SLABBED)

Barrett made a strong argument in support of his request for $3.5 million in fees, expenses and interest – and a “must read” IMO for attorneys on both sides of the bar.  However, what struck me as even more interesting was this paragraph in Barrett’s Affidavit documenting his personal history of litigation as justification for his $450 hourly rate:

I am presently lead counsel of the Katrina Litigation Group, a consortium of lawyers who represent hundreds of homeowners along the Mississippi Coast who were victimized first by Hurricane Katrina and then by their insurance companies. To date our group has favorably settled over 1,600 homeowners’ claims Continue reading ““defense lawyers have been banking their money for years” – a lawyer’s perspective on Katrina litigation”

Katrina plaintiffs win a big one!

Anita Lee reported the victory – Pass condo owners prevail in Katrina lawsuit against insurer

The owners of condominium units in Pass Christian felt relieved and vindicated Friday by a jury’s decision to award them $1.8 million from insurer Lloyd’s of London to cover Katrina’s wind damage.

Lloyd’s waited almost a year after the storm to deny the claim, forcing the Penthouse Owners Association to sue in January 2007.

U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden found “no arguable basis” for Lloyd’s decision, ordering the insurer to also cover the association’s legal fees, pre-judgment interest on the amount owed for losses and other fees. The association’s lead attorney, Don Barrett of Lexington, expects the total award to be around $4 million.

Click on the link and read the rest of the story on the Sun Herald.

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”