Judge Sarah Vance has busted Allen Kanner’s balls badly as Ex Rel Branch has been dismissed. Nowdy will have the particulars with respect to the insurers named, Allstate in particular. The Travelers and the insurance bastards at Liberty Mutual skate unscathed.
Thursday, January 6th, 2011
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
A HAPPY NEW YEAR FOR INSURANCE RATES ALONG THE GULF COAST? NOT REALLY!
So happy New Year! And by the way, get ready for higher property insurance rates along the Gulf Coast, particularly in Louisiana. One would think that if anything, homeowner’s rates would be going down. After all, there has been virtually no hurricane activity in the Gulf for the past four years. And with the national economic slump, home prices have dropped which should translate into lower insurance rates. Not so say the experts. Here are a few reasons why many states, particularly my home state of Louisiana, will see higher rates in the coming year.
Huge claims for the BP Gulf Oil spill will definitely boost insurance rates for the oil industry. No one at this stage can even guess what the final insurance costs will be from both the damage and years of ligation from the Gulf spill. Most of the larger oil companies are self insured, which means they will have to divert funds from operating costs into designated reserve funds. Independent companies, that produce both oil and gas, will see their insurance costs go up. Higher insurance costs mean cut backs, possible layoffs, and higher prices for both oil and gas. And those insurance companies that have taken a big hit over the Gulf spill will have no choice but to raise rates for all lines of insurance, including homeowners.
Citizens Property Insurance Company in Louisiana continues to run amok, and be a factor in higher insurance rates. Louisiana taxpayers are on the hook for well over a billion dollars because of the state created company’s mismanagement. The company is now bragging that it has reduced the number of policies it is selling. But this becomes a catch 22. As Citizens looses customers, the overall risk increases. A new study by the Insurance Information Institute pointed out the Louisiana state run plan still maintains a “precarious financial condition.” Simple translation — it’s broke, and will be for years. Last month the company asked the Louisiana Insurance Department for an increase that in some south Louisiana parishes will top 24%. Continue reading “Jim Brown”
I recently met with a group of political strategists that noticed our little blog in Soggy Bottom and the information exchange was very enlightening for me. I’m as interested in the mechanics of the story as the story itself and the tales I was told of how these folks manipulated the traditional media were very interesting. More than any other skill set these folks had a keen understanding of human behavior which is a shared passion with us at Slabbed.
The garden variety bashing I sometime engage in to drive traffic sometimes obscures the fact Slabbed is in reality a quest for knowledge as in getting all the facts that surrounded the blanket denials of insurance coverage after Katrina no matter where those facts may lead. This may sound elementary, indeed even simplistic, but I’d submit we stand in stark contrast to our own insurance regulators that ignored all the evidence of fraud on part of their corporate benefactors from the insurance industry after Katrina, Mike Chaney even going so far as to attack the Rigsby sisters, who exposed the fraud perpetrated by State Farm on the US Treasury here in Mississippi. This frankly came as no surprise to me, especially after it came out that the lawyer who ran the market conduct study for Mr Chaney left the Mississippi Department of Insurance for State Farm’s Jackson based law firm.
Insurance companies have lots of money to throw around and spend vast sums of money on shills, propagandists and their own in-house PR departments. These folks are mostly rent an opinion hookers that dispense half-truths in furtherance of their own paychecks. Armed with lots of factoids and ready made quotes, deadline pressed journalists flock to them in droves, often uncritically lapping up the intellectually dishonest drivel folks like the III’s Robert Hartwig, who this past summer passed off a bogus poll about the NFIP to the media. To her credit, Becky Mowbray over at the T-P busted Hartwig and frankly I was amused at Mike Chaney’s blatant duplicity in the Sun Herald’s reporting on the same topic. I guess Chaney tells so many whoppers he can’t keep them all straight but that is another post.
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.
Everyone has heard the old saying that a leopard does not change its spots and like many idiomatic expressions that its roots in antiquity, it accurately describes the human condition. Judge Feldman’s latest interest conflicted ruling regarding the drilling moratorium and the intense interest therein has opened the flood gates of information flow from the Slabbed Nation. It was a reader sending me one of Feldman’s rulings involving a lawsuit against an oil company that resonated with me as the tactics dishonest corporate defense lawyers and their lackey judges evidently use with regularity in the court system pop up again and again in litigation, whether it is the ordinary citizens against big oil or big insurance.
Let’s begin with a case from the 1990’s before Judge Feldman where ol Marty tries gave an offshore worker that was hurt on the job the Feldman in an attempt to deprive the man of justice. I used the word attempt because Feldman’s conduct in court formed the basis of an appeal so it from the Westlaw analysis of the case Billy G. and Cheryl Bufford v Rowan Drilling Company that we begin:
Gov. Haley Barbour and DMR Director Bill Walker said Thursday they trust the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers not to allow Louisiana to build any berm or sand barriers east of the mouth of Mississippi River that would cause oil to flow into Mississippi waters.
Good thing you trust them Haley because no one down here does.
Sometime in early-2008, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company began a new advertising campaign called the “Responsibility Project”. The company calls it a place to discuss “doing the right thing”. I will get to the hypocrisy of an insurance company having the audacity to suggest that it wants to assist others in “doing the right thing”, below.
A recent entry to the “Responsibility Project” library is a short film entitled “Lawyers”. This is the story of two lawyers, a man and a woman, who are about to meet in a sushi bar. They have been dating awhile, and the man brings an engagement ring to “pop the question”. They begin a discussion about a case that the woman is handling. When the woman is not looking, the man places the ring on the carousel that carries a selection of sushi rolling past their location. His plan is that the ring will come around the circle, she will see it, and he will ask her to marry him. It is very romantic. Continue reading “"The Ultimate Hypocrisy" – so many options – but this hypocrite is Liberty Mutual”
The best place to hide a needle is in a haystack of needles– and, at the moment, there’s no bigger haystack of needles than the docket of the Branch Consultants qui tam case The Branch defendant insurers file a single motion as a group and, then, some or all file essentially the same motion separately. The result is the eye-crossing, mind-boggling docket that confused Magistrate Shushan to the point she thought she’d developed an enlightened perspective on the USSC Rockwell decision.
Rather than similarly embarrass myself, it seemed better to hold motions until all parties had filed – but that was before a thoughtful reader sent me the link to Liberty Mutual’s “Responsibility Project” website and I clicked on the Company’s list entitled “How Liberty Mutual is Responsible” and found the most incredible statement – “Liberty Mutual is all about doing the right thing. First and foremost for our policyholders, but also for our employees and our communities as well”.
While Liberty Mutual’s and Standard Fire’s motions to sever have been pending, the Branch docket has had a severe case motion sickness. Judge Vance offered the cure in short order in what is a really short Order denying both motions as “premature”.
A typical Sarah Vance Order is detailed and lengthy – and this one is neither. When I read it the first time, I thought it would just take a few minutes to compose this post; but, then, I read it again and that was hours ago and this is my fourth sentence. Obviously, I’ve done more thinking than writing. Is it short and lacking in detail because it would be “premature” to say more or is she deliberately guarded?
She gives only one reason for denying the two motions to sever:
There appear to be at least one or more common issues of law or fact in this action that warrant consolidation under Rule 42 of the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, at least in the pretrial phase of this case. See FED. R. CIV. P. 42(a) (“If actions before the court involve a common question of law or fact, the court may . . . consolidate the actions.”).
It doesn’t get much better than this as Sun Herald ace reporter Anita Lee slabs Mike Chaney for not telling the whole story about Safeco coming back to the coastal wind market here in Mississippi:
When Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney announced earlier this week that Safeco Insurance would offer wind coverage to a limited number of customers, he neglected to mention he had approved an average statewide rate increase of 14.7 percent on homeowner policies for the company.
As Mr Chaney is a Republican and since those guys love to talk about the Ten Commandments I feel we must explore one of those commandments in connection with this post. I’ll add that by virtue of 13 years of immersion in the Catholic Catechism I am versed in the concepts embodied in the 8th commandment (for our protestant friends it is the 9th commandment) so it is there we stop next: