Qui Tam Olympics – the protection game: ex rel Rigsby v State Farm

Qui Tam Olymics – Defendants’ games pit Judge Vance (Branch) against Judge Senter (Rigsby) introduced the interplay between the Rigsby and Branch qui tam defendants.  The name of the Olympic event currently taking place in Judge Senter’s Mississippi courtroom is the Protection Game –  State Farm hardball versus the Rigsby sisters.  The next post in this series will cover the protection game going on in ex rel Branch over in Louisiana before Judge Vance – hopefully by then I’ll have mastered whatever trick is needed for the slides to run as a show!

[slideshare id=2931777&doc=theprotectiongame-100116212716-phpapp01]

Judge Senter modifies Magistrate’s Order in part – Bossier v State Farm

Plaintiff does not have carte blanche in the discovery process (and Plaintiff’s thoroughness in the pursuit of information may not equate to discoverability), but at the same time Defendant should not unilaterally determine that certain material is restricted.

Judge Senter’s Order granted the Bossier’s motion in part and modified Magistrate Judge Walker’s order in part.  However, what he means by, “The issues in this case appear to be no different from those in other typical Hurricane Katrina lawsuits” is very different from what a good many others would mean by those same words – and that part confounds the total impact of the Order.

For example, when Judge Senter repeats and expands on this position again later, he states:

In light of the Court’s observation that this case is no different from other Hurricane Katrina insurance litigation, the remainder of Plaintiff’s discovery requests are overly broad…

Yet, what he sees as “overly broad,”  others might see as merely scratching the surface :

“meetings [and other events] of any description”; documents (and other items) “of any sort whatsoever” related, inter alia, to handling “Hurricane Katrina claims” and “wind vs. water claims”; and the handling of NFIP claims (when there was no flood insurance in this case)…

Likewise, what he sees as unreasonable, some would say is the only reasonable way to discover why the typical Hurricane Katrina insurance lawsuit includes property near the water with no flood insurance:

…the Magistrate Judge required State Farm “to produce those documents containing [Defendant’s] directives, guidelines, policies and procedures for handling Hurricane Katrina claims in general or Plaintiff’s claim specifically.” Anything beyond, including the formulation of those directives, guidelines, policies, and procedures, is unreasonable.

However, the modification Judge Senter made was to a portion of Walker’s Order that was in dire need of correction: Continue reading “Judge Senter modifies Magistrate’s Order in part – Bossier v State Farm”

Why is this man smiling? (a qui tam update)

Judge Senter
Judge L. T. Senter photographed by James Edward Bates, Sun Herald

I have no idea why this man is smiling.  Until this photograph ran with  Anita Lee’s package of stories in today’s Sun Herald, I had never seen his picture, much less had the opportunity to meet him.

Maybe he’s smiling because he’s happy someone finally took a deposition of Lecky King and got answers to their questions.

Just kidding. He looks more like an everyday smiler to me, a generally pleasant person, not one who saves smiles for special occasions.  I hope so as he is none other than  L.T. Senter, Judge for the Federal Court, Southern District of Mississippi – and king of Katrina litigation on the Coast.

Anita Lee’s package was packed with “firsts”.  In addition to Judge Senter’s photograph, her lead story is the first report we’ve had about what Ms.King had to say once she started talking.

State Farm decided within days of Katrina it was storm surge that obliterated Coast homes near the waterfront, a State Farm claims manager has testified, instructing adjusters to pay federal flood claims but wait for investigations to determine if the company owed money for wind damage.

State Farm claims manager Alexis “Lecky” King described how the company Continue reading “Why is this man smiling? (a qui tam update)”

When Katrina’s music stops – the player without a chair

Other than the add-on that keeps bright blue text below the surface (usually), SLABBED is pretty much a “standard package” with the capacity to collect data on a fairly basic set indicators.

Our data come without the context needed for us to know much more than someone is reading; and, as long as we know that, we are content taken’ it as it comes.  However, I do confess to having occasional thoughts about those who come at times and from places where most are sleeping, most often wondering if they’re burdened but fearful.

I’ve thought more about those with sleepless nights since reading the Insurance Adjuster’s Dilemma: Tell the Truth and Face the Consequences by Raising Claim Practice Misconduct

The classic example is the civil prosecution of the Rigsby sisters. They told a story of a State Farm adjuster holding numerous reports which were not being sent to policyholders but were “revised.” The revised reports were always worse for the policyholders because they allowed for State Farm to deny claims. Had their story stopped there, they would have been terminated. But their actions went further with Dickie Scruggs, and the rest has been fodder for demeaning posts by the insurance industry.

When Katrina’s music stops playing this song, there will be a player without a chair – and, who that might be is something I’ve thought more about since reading about the arrangement between the WYO companies and FEMA. Continue reading “When Katrina’s music stops – the player without a chair”

Merlin’s unambiguous opinion – MID report helps prove Judge Senter right about ambiguity of ACC clause

Sop posted the big slabbing Coast attorney Joe Sam Owen gave Commission Chaney after MID released the State Farm Market Conduct Exam. If I didn’t know he was commissioner of insurance, I would have thought he worked for State Farm.

Now, we have Insurance attorney Chip Merlin telling us I cursed and almost jumped out of my chair when the report indicated that the Department asked for information from policyholder attorneys.

Our firm had approximately 200 State Farm cases, with many of those litigated and testimony taken. While the Attorney General’s office contacted us and other policyholder attorneys, I don’t know any policyholder attorneys who were contacted by the Mississippi Insurance Department. (emphasis added)

MID should be getting Merlin’s message now – it couldn’t be any plainer. Continue reading “Merlin’s unambiguous opinion – MID report helps prove Judge Senter right about ambiguity of ACC clause”

Grab your hiking boots – time to wander from Perdigao v Adams & Reese to USA v Scruggs

If you find yourself lost as we wander from NOLA way up to the land of Faulker, worry not – this is not about changing the facts to fit the picture, it’s more of a sight-seeing trip to see if the facts fit the frame.

Among the comments made to the Perdiago update Sop posted today, were several about Perdiago’s allegations about Allstate and Robert Wooley, the former Louisiana insurance Commission who joined Adams & Reese. Take note of section 73 and these two sentences:

Notably absent from Wooley’s list ofpotential clients in his business plan was a “big fish” that was not already a client of the firm. The firm already represented State Farm, the largest homeowners’ insurer in the state. Continue reading “Grab your hiking boots – time to wander from Perdigao v Adams & Reese to USA v Scruggs”

Senter’s decision based on assumptions – and that’s a fact

Post-Katrina Mississippi offers a life with persistent stress to those on the Coast – so much so that a recent post on the Sun Herald’s mental health blog began with I gotta say that keeping up with a blog is a whole lot more work than I thought.

If keeping up with a mental health blog is stressful, imagine what it would be like to deal with a docket of Katrina insurance cases for almost three years. So, maybe that accounts, at least in part, for Judge Senter’s application of assumptions as fact in his decision to disqualify the Rigsby sisters’ Qui Tam attorneys.

Senter predicated his decision on two assumptions that were made and heavily promoted by State Farm; parroted to a varying extent by the E.A. Renfroe and other businesses associated with the handling of the company’s Katrina policy-holder claims; and embraced by the insurance oriented blogs.
However, neither assumption has been argued and proven in any court– making his decision to the disqualify the Qui Tam attorneys similar to his deciding Broussard without presenting the case to a jury, the decision recently overturned by the 5th Circuit. Continue reading “Senter’s decision based on assumptions – and that’s a fact”