In my most recent post on the three Katrina qui tam cases, I compared Allstate to Larry, the character on the old Newhart show who spoke for his two mute brothers – “my brother Darryl and my other brother Darryl”. This update on the Branch Consultants’ qui tam case is the first of three follow-up posts, each focusing on a single case. While Louisiana federal district Judge Sarah Vance is not only more attractive than Larry’s “other brother Darryl”, pictured center in photo on the right, one might think she, too, mute given Allstate’s attempt to put words in her mouth.
Allstate certainly has good reason to be concerned. The Company has the distinction of being a named defendant in all the Katrina qui tam cases. Allstate argues it is a distinction without a difference and that, on that basis, Judge Vance lacks jurisdiction under the “first to file” requirement of the FCA (False Claims Act). A related SLABBED post, Allstate files Answer in Branch – and this I couldn’t make up!, introduced Allstate’s position; i.e., the Rigsby sisters were the first to file.
Despite having once invited Branch counsel Allen Kanner to “kiss my***ex rel“, I do not believe Judge Vance can determine jurisdiction until discovery has been completed in Branch, the recently unsealed ex rel Denenea v Allstate and Rigsby with the scope of expanded. Allstate represents the FCA restriction on similar claims too narrowly, IMO, but more importantly, there is currently no way to know for certain.
My position, however, is contrary to the strategy of the “wool-over-court’s-eye” scheme concocted, or so I believe, by Allstate and other insurers as an element in the overall scheme of fraudulent claims handling that followed Hurricane Katrina – and it is the context of that wet-dog smelling scheme unraveling before Judge Vance that we examined the current status of the Branch Consultants’ qui tam case.
“The Court has issued a number of decisions in this matter, and knowledge of the relevant background will be presumed.”
Either Judge Vance has a dry wit or I’ve gone as slap-happy as the Three Stooges trying to clear my “drafts file” of posts. Whatever. Strike up the band provided SLABBED readers with “knowledge of the relevant background” presumed – and, that said, we take a look at the series of Orders recently added to the Branch qui tam docket:
The Court has issued a number of decisions in this matter, and knowledge of the relevant background will be presumed…
The question now before the Court is simply whether Branch may obtain discovery as to properties for which an ANPAC subsidiary, rather than ANPAC itself, wrote the insurance policy. Contrary to ANPAC’s assertions, this question is not jurisdictional.
ANPAC also objects to the Magistrate Judge’s order granting a protective order to Branch as to certain tax and payment records.
It’s been almost six months since SLABBED published Shall we dance? (March 2010), a post reporting Magistrate Shushan’s Order that granted in-part only the Branch Consultant’s Motion for leave to file a Second Amended Complaint (SAC) – so long that most have likely forgotten the big news of Shushan’s Order was what she denied and her subsequent Report, posted by Sop stock-basher style, recommending the Court limit Branch’s Discovery to the exemplar claims cited in the original Complaint.
Suffice it to say, a flurry of motions followed both the Order and Report and then everyone waited and waited – and waited even longer – for Judge Vance to issue a related Order and Reasons (posted on Scribd below):
Before the Court are two challenges to the decisions of the Magistrate Judge. First, relator Branch Consultants appeals the Magistrate Judge’s decision granting in part and denying in part its Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint. Branch also opposes the Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation regarding the scope of discovery. For the following reasons, the Magistrate Judge’s denial of Branch’s motion for leave to amend is REVERSED. The Court, after a de novo review, declines to accept the Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation as detailed in this Order.
Because Judge Vance’s decision declining to accept the Magistrate’s Report and Recommendations addresses issues relevant to the Rigsby qui tam case, SLABBED reminds readers that Judge Vance “rocks” on Rockwell as we first review the related portion of her Order and the reasoning that led her to determine:
Both co-defendants are requesting release on the same general basis – the 5th Circuit’s recent decision reversing part of their bribery convictions and the pending USSC decision on the constitutionality of the honest services statute, the likely-to-be-tossed basis for the remaining portions of their sentences.
The news of the day, so to speak, is Paul Minor is the only defendant that has not filed a motion for release pending appeal with Judge Wingate. In light of these apparently very significant developments, why not? Minor has hasn’t hesitated to file for a lawful get out of jail free card in the past. If his case is as strong as he keeps saying it is, why does he appear fearful now?
Could Minor’s behavior be another indication that hell may indeed freeze over?