“It has come to my attention that my Memorandum Opinion Concerning State Farm Fire and Casualty Company’s Motion To Dismiss For Relators’ Violation Of Seal Order, Docket Number 871, contains a factual error stated at the top of page 11 and repeated near the bottom of page 13. The opinion states that the Relators have previously been represented by the Scruggs Katrina Group, and this is not the case. Relators were previously represented by The Scruggs Law Firm, LLC, and not by the Scruggs Katrina Group. By this order, I am amending this Memorandum Opinion to correct this error.”
The Order makes no mention of how this matter came to his attention. My guess is from his exceedingly careful reading of documents he’s reviewing before deciding matters currently before the Court. Not that he wouldn’t otherwise, but Don Barrett’s recently filed Motion for Fees pointing out “defense lawyers have been banking their money for years” from Katrina litigation and piling on more work for an already overworked court staff in the process.
In that regard, I suspect – actually I hope – Judge Senter will do as he’s done in the past and allow a document to be filed once and referenced in all briefs thereafter. My experience reading briefs in ex rel Rigsby is like reading the first chapter of a newly purchased Agatha Christi and realizing you paid for a new cover and title to a book you’d already read!
In light of the significance of the Branch Opinion – a significance acknowledged by both sides to this litigation – State Farm believes it would assist the Court to have a response from State Farm to the matters briefed by the Rigsbys in their Notice.
So much for my thinking the next item listed on the Rigsby qui tam docket would be one of the two remaining motions argued at the recent Status Hearing. State Farm filed its first Notice of Intervening Authority before the ink was dry on Judge Vance’s order dismissing the Branch qui tam case; and, when Judge Vance filed an Amended Judgment, State Farm filed a second Notice. (Notices in scribd format follow)
The Rigsbys legal team obviously differed with State Farm’s take on case and Friday they, too, filed a Notice of Intervening Authority citing the Branch decision (Notice in scribd format follows):
[T]he Rigsbys believe that the latest Branch decision again supports their motion to reconsider the scope of the current litigation. The Branch court’s ruling recognized that “a relator need not be an original source of the actual false claims made by the defendants to the government,” as long as the relator is “an original source of a certain core of information, such as the basic modus operandi of the fraud.” Thus, this most recent opinion reinforces the Branch court’s prior ruling, which held that original-source knowledge would have “entitle[d] [the Branch relator] to discovery on all the alleged instances of fraud in the loss-shifting scheme, even those outside the examples in the First Amended Complaint.”
Judge L.T. Senter Jr. is weighing whether to dismiss a whistle-blower lawsuit against State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. or expand its scope beyond one policyholder’s Katrina claim.
Attorneys spent four hours in federal court Wednesday presenting their arguments to Senter, who is presiding over his last major Hurricane Katrina case, Rigsby vs. State Farm.
State Farm attorneys argue the case should be dismissed because sisters and former insurance adjusters Cori and Kerri Rigsby have turned up no evidence of fraud during extensive pre-trial investigation, called discovery. Senter limited the scope of discovery to one policyholder claim, McIntosh, because the Rigsbys have firsthand knowledge of how it was adjusted.
Attorneys for the Rigsbys argue they have discovered a pattern of fraud by State Farm and should be allowed to expand discovery beyond the McIntosh claim. The Rigsbys maintain State Farm minimized its costs for wind-damage claims by overcharging the National Flood Insurance Program for losses caused by storm surge.
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)
A little background here for new readers and a refresher for others: Larry, a character on the old Newhart show, spoke for himself and his two mute brothers, both of whom were named Darryl. (h/t Sop for the reminder). “Qui Tam Olympics” is SLABBED shorthand for the insurance industry’s effort to play Mississippi Judge L.T.Senter and the Rigsby qui tam case against Louisiana Judge Sarah Vance and the Branch Consultants’ qui tam case and, now, the Denenea case too.
Got the picture? Meet the cast. Although the roles change when to their advantage, at the moment Allstate has taken the role of Larry, State Farm that of one Darryl with the rest of the industry playing the other.
In other words, those in the insurance industry that were “all in it together” – “it” being “the scheme” of fraudulent claims handling that followed Hurricane Katrina – are still “all in it together” with “it” being a pull-the-wool-over-the-court’s-eye scheme to fool the federal courts into dismissing all three qui tam cases. How do I know? Well, wet wool smells – some say like a wet dog – and I picked up the scent reading documents filed in all three cases.
As first evident in Politz v Nationwide, the Company’s attorneys – including those in skirts – are difficult to distinguish from a gang of thugs. In Sunquest v Nationwide, it has become a distinction without a difference.
The Plaintiff is a corporation organized under Louisiana law with its principal place of business at 3 Bancroft Circle, Monroe, LA 71201…At all material times, the Plaintiff was an insured for the buildings and property known as Carriage House Apartments, 1625 Martin Bluff Rd., Gautier, Jackson County, Mississippi 39553 under Nationwide’s Policy No. 63BP139742004 (the “contract”)…On August 29, 2005, the contract provided multiple coverages for windstorm damage to the buildings or damage by collapse.
The contract provides for multiple coverages, including coverage for direct physical loss of, or damage to, the apartment buildings described in the contract; personal property used to maintain or service the buildings or structures on the premises; business personal property; debris removal; actual loss of business income; and other property…On August 29,2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the Mississippi Gulf Coast and caused substantial damage to the insured property… Continue reading ““yo mama” Nationwide, she wants a real man like O’Leary on her side”
Merlin lived up to his name when, like the magician, he pulled this list of case law out of his hat, so to speak, and posted it on his blog last week – providing the context for an update on several cases we’ve followed on SLABBED. Case law was the focus of Merlin’s presentation at a recent Windpool Conference session for adjusters and the listed cases are those expected to “affect those adjusting claims in Gulf Coast areas outside of Florida”:
Pursuant to Rule 50, Fed. R. Civ. P., Plaintiff moves for judgment as a matter of law on all issues concerning contract damages on the grounds that the jury did not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find in favor of Defendant….
The law is clear that when considering a Rule 50 motion, “the Court must review all of the evidence from the record, draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party, and may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence.” Poliner v. Texas Health Systems, 537 F.3d 368, 376 (5th Cir. 2008). While this standard is a heavy one, in the case sub judice the evidence presented at trial compelled a finding in favor of the Plaintiff. The jury’s contrary verdict should not be allowed to stand.
This Honorable Court denied Plaintiff’s Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law after Defendant’s presentation of the evidence, but noted during the jury instruction conference that the motion probably should have been granted.
On blog and off, readers have consistently offered positive comments about Bossier’s counsel Judy Guice calling her an ethical, smart lawyer that fights for her clients. At least one has mentioned that putting clients first, not money, is what all lawyers are supposed to do.
“This is a public court…It belongs to the citizens. I believe in hearing everything in open court if I can.”
Federal District Judge L.T. Senter, Bossier v State Farm
Open court is not a place where Judge Senter presides. Instead, it is the envelope of the litigation process – the structural architecture holding together our system of justice for all.
Like the envelope of homes that stood against Katrina’s wind and water, not all damage to our system of justice is visible to the naked eye.
Neither was the damage to the Bossier’s home. Continuing with the analogy, tort reform and other system changes simply hide the cracks. What is needed is change that strengthens the structural architecture of the envelope, Open court – change that Judge Senter can make:
Modify the Mediation Order so that the period of mediation immediately follows the filing of a Complaint and Answer.
Improve the quality and oversight of the mediation process and require plaintiffs to attend a pre-mediation session conducted by the court that fully explains the process.
Require all motions for a protective order to fully comply with the Rules requiring specificity in the documentation of “good cause” and deny any that do not with prejudice.
Insist settlement conferences are documented with the technology used for video depositions and privately review the tapes before sealing.