Of being cursed with too much knowledge plus another Nowdygram: An Ex Rel Rigsby Update

State Farm began their defense in the Rigsby whistleblower lawsuit involving allegations they and other insurers defrauded the National Flood Insurance Program after Hurricane Katrina early this week and I immediately noticed a foul odor that seemed to emanate from the Federal Courthouse in Gulfport when former NFIP Director Dave Maurstad took the stand for State Farm.  To understand Maurstad and the concept of the revolving door, you gotta understand these guys circle from private sector insurance related jobs to government regulatory positions and back each time collecting more career enhancing favors.  With this bunch it is always about the next job so the insurance industry could not have had a better water boy in place when Katrina hit than Dave Maurstad.

But once upon a time ol’ Dave was not so keen to testify about the NFIP handling of Hurricane Katrina claims no siree.  In Bolden v FEMA for instance Dave had to be compelled to show up at the Federal Courthouse to testify about the expedited claims process he and Lecky King came up with after Katrina.  Worth noting is rather than let Maurstad testify FEMA opted to settle Bolden immediately.  The bottom line is most people I listen to think Maurstad is a self serving hack under whose watch the NFIP sank into technical insolvency.

But it got deeper yesterday folks as State Farm retiree Lecky King took the stand with the sound of miniature violins playing in the background as Anita Lee explains in her latest dispatch from the Courthouse (I hope McClatchy sent a gas mask with her and is considering hazardous duty pay):

Career almost destroyed

Lecky King, on the other hand, said State Farm attorneys prepared her for her testimony. She spent her last few years at the company working on policyholder lawsuits filed after Katrina and on the case against her, which at one time was part of a criminal investigation that never resulted in charges.

Seems like it was just yesterday that King was living in an exclusive gated community in the Florida panhandle ducking subpoenas in the policyholder cases. In one of those cases an enterprising lawyer for a Slabber managed to get a birthday clown past the guards to serve some paper on King, whom I am fairly certain was richly rewarded by Ed Rust for her service in fattening his paycheck at the expense of natural disaster victims. Continue reading “Of being cursed with too much knowledge plus another Nowdygram: An Ex Rel Rigsby Update”

A “Nowdygram” on the latest developments in USA Ex Rel Rigsby v State Farm

With due respect to Anita Lee I’ll let my former partner in blog go first:

Checked PACER to see if anything came up as the Rigsby’s rested their case…Sure nuf’ SF filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law under Rule 50 – just a docket entry…said the Court heard arguments and took the matter under advisement…did not say what the law was…

I looked up “judgment as a matter of law

(a) Judgment as a Matter of Law.

(1) In General. If a party has been fully heard on an issue during a jury trial and the court finds that a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue, the court may:

(A) resolve the issue against the party; and

(B) grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law against the party on a claim or defense that, under the controlling law, can be maintained or defeated only with a favorable finding on that issue.

(2) Motion. A motion for judgment as a matter of law may be made at any time before the case is submitted to the jury. The motion must specify the judgment sought and the law and facts that entitle the movant to the judgment.

I do not see Judge Ozerden tossing this suit mid trial and this rule 50 motion seems like a standard defense tactic. Turns out Cori Rigsby did not take the stand yesterday so the Plaintiffs rested their case and State Farm took the floor with a Woody:

State Farm never called Katrina ‘water’ storm, adjuster testifies ~ Anita Lee

Three adjusters testify State Farm claim properly handled properly ~ Anita Lee

Meantime up in Jersey:

2 months after Superstorm Sandy, many in most devastated South Jersey communities still struggling to recover ~ Spencer Kent and Brittany M. Wehner

Less satisfied with her insurance coverage is homeowner Jeanna Weber, a 25-year resident of Fortescue.Weber says she’s frustrated, tired of calling her insurance company without any response. She has been calling since October, she said, but to no avail.

Insurance Omnibus: Rigsby, Rossie and RE plus Pols on the take and Mississippians sold out by Team Phildo

Image courtesy of Mr Liberty Mutual

A bit over a week ago a print journalist familiar with Slabbed’s coverage of the post Katrina insurance wars sent me this link to a National Underwriter top 10 insurance living legends piece that featured Dickie Scruggs (one notch above true living legend Karen Clark) at the 7 spot.  We used to feature the NU a good bit on Slabbed but that ended after they ignored the insurance industry getting its ass kicked in Corban v USAA where Nationwide Insurance’s lawyers made particular asses of themselves asserting wind coverage was properly denied if, after the wind 99% destroys the covered property, storm surge destroys the other 1%.  The industry contends in such a scenario taxpayer provided coverage under the National Flood Insurance Program was the proper source of coverage and that is exactly the way they adjusted their claims here after Katrina tendering flood insurance policies pretty much sight unseen and denying any wind coverage that would come from their coffers.

For those of you folks still wondering why the country is broke after figuring out it is not the union pipe fitter that goes to work everyday for 6AM at the shipyard, or school teacher unions or Mexican ditch diggers, I’d submit if you multiply the above scenario 1000 times and you’d find the answer as most of the politicians that matter on any level are owned by some special interest.  To illustrate the point allow me to update several insurance business world stories Slabbed covered in years gone by and start with that NU story I linked above.

A few weeks ago word filtered out the Rigsby sisters false claims act complaint against State Farm would be moving to trial on the exemplar claim known around the blogs as McIntosh v State Farm.  State Farm is PR savvy and when that case heats up, invariably David Rossmiller, a partner at the Portland Oregon insurance defense firm of Dunn Carney pops up like a fly on shit regaling us with his knowledge of the minutiae of insurance contract law.  Since Rossie, as he is known on Slabbed, surfaced blogging on Hurricane wind water cases of the type he has never tried in Oregon, it naturally aroused suspicions locally that he was an adjunct of State Farm PR, a view now widely shared in the local print media in South Mississippi.  Back in the day Rossie was a darling in local insurance defense circles and on the Hard Line GOP political resource YallPolitics in the blogosphere, which still features the insurance litigation here on the coast in a section termed Scruggs scandal and it is indeed a popular insurance industry meme that the wind damage down here was all a figment of Dick Scruggs imagination thus the lumping.  Scapegoating trial lawyers in still popular in GOP circles folks but that stands to reason since the GOP is the party of big business special interests but I’m getting ahead of myself.

So how does a lawyer that has never tried a wind water Hurricane case emerge as a media expert in trade journals and business publications like the Wall Street Journal? Continue reading “Insurance Omnibus: Rigsby, Rossie and RE plus Pols on the take and Mississippians sold out by Team Phildo”

Round 2 – Responses filed to Motions in Rigsby qui tam

The filing of Response briefs last Friday signaled Round 2 in the briefing cycle  to be completed before the Court reschedules the Status Conference previously set for today. Since Judge Senter’s Order canceling today’s conference did not specify the pending motions, we turn to the docket listing showing the Rigsbys filed a Response in Opposition to each of the three dispositive motions filed by State Farm and State Farm’s Opposition to the Rigsby’s Motion to Reconsider the Scope of Proceedings.

In a single sentence, Relators’ Counsel summarized the obvious in all three of State Farm’s motions:

In what seems to be a common theme in recent motions, State Farm Fire & Casualty Company (“State Farm”) completely ignores the fact that the Court already decided the issues raised in its Motion.

For example, the Relators’ Response in Opposition to State Farm’s Motion to Dismiss Due to the Rigsbys’ Repeated and Calculated Violations of this Court’s Seal Order stated:

In its August 10, 2009 Memorandum Opinion [343], this Court unequivocally denied State Farm’s motion to dismiss for alleged seal violations. Undeterred, and still intent on making this case about Dickie Scruggs, State Farm makes the surprising assertion that “[t]he Court did not decide this issue in its August 10, 2009 Order.” See [739] at 2. In any event, and as set forth below, the Court should deny State Farm’s Motion to Dismiss again because (1) there was no actual harm to the government; (2) any alleged seal violations were immaterial and do not warrant dismissal; and (3) State Farm has made no showing of bad faith by the Rigsbys.

State Farm “dicked around” in three other federal court districts during Discovery  – District of Columbia; Eastern District Kentucky, and Northern District Mississippi – and, in the process of court shopping, established evidence aplenty the Company remains both “intent on making this case about Dick Scruggs” and “undeterred” by the decisions of the Southern District Mississippi federal court or the evidence on the docket documenting the government’s lapse in maintaining the seal.

However, as the Rigsbys’ point out, “the FCA does not expressly prescribe dismissal for seal violations…[and]…Scruggs, his firm and co-counsel already have been disqualified…” – leading me to believe this motion is simply another example of State Farm “dickin’ around”: Continue reading “Round 2 – Responses filed to Motions in Rigsby qui tam”

Judge Senter pops the question! BREAKING NEWS on Rigsby qui tam

TEXT ONLY ORDER: The status conference scheduled for Monday, September 20, 2010, is hereby cancelled. The conference will be rescheduled as soon as all briefing on pending motions has been completed and the Court has had an opportunity to study the parties’ positions.

At the rescheduled hearing, the Court will hear oral argument from both sides on the issue of whether the scope of this litigation should be expanded to include evidence concerning properties other than the McIntosh residence.

The Court will also be interested in ascertaining the parties’ positions with respect to: 1) the merits of the objection of the United States to the recent settlement between the relators and Forensic Analysis and Engineering Corp., 2) the status of the negotiations between the parties and the United States, and 3) the active role, if any, the United States can be expected to take in the remainder of this litigation. NO FURTHER WRITTEN ORDER SHALL ISSUE. Signed by Senior Judge L. T. Senter, Jr, on 09/13/2010 (kbo) (Entered: 09/13/2010)

More to follow in the morning!

“not to belabor the point” – just another look at Katrina’s wind and flood water on the McIntosh property: a Rigsby qui tam update

In light of State Farm’s attempt to exclude the testimony of the Rigsbys’ expert witnesses, SLABBED revisits the data documenting Katrina’s wind and flood water on the McIntosh property.   As Sop’s “USA Ex Rel Rigsby v State Farm: An analysis of the McIntosh Claim: Updating the original post Not to belabor the pointpointed out, “There was around 2 feet of water inside the[McIntosh] residence when the storm surge peaked in the Biloxi Bay several hours after Hurricane force winds began blowing.

NOAA shows the McIntosh property was subjected to “F2 or greater Eyewall Winds” (page 50).

How powerful are F2 Eyewall Winds? Continue reading ““not to belabor the point” – just another look at Katrina’s wind and flood water on the McIntosh property: a Rigsby qui tam update”

Aye Aye Captain Jack. Slabbed opens Davy Jones’ locker and finds an unethical Ed Rust hired gun.

There is a method to the madness here at Slabbed and one of my methods involves periodically revisiting certain news links we post to see if there are any belated comments worthy of follow-up. Such was the case with Anita Lee’s recent story on Chris McIntosh that we highlighted and sure enough there was a late comment by one Captain Jack that I could not let pass since it involves information we’ve been holding onto for at least a year and it is there we begin:

I agree with the other posters here. State Farm should be shut down. The federal government needs to investigate and prosecute. For details about State Farm’s bad behavior and the Oklahoma court ruling for sanctions and contempt against State Farm and attorney David V. Jones of San Antonio, Texas, check out http://badfaithinsurance.org and http://truthaboutmold.info/insurancenews.

Actually Cap there is so much more as the legal profession likes to keep attorneys like Jones as a dirty secret. Fortunately for us we had ring side seats via PACER when Jones enrolled in several Katrina cases involving State Farm in Louisiana including one where the lawyers for the plaintiffs tried to have Jones booted for lying on his pro hac vice affidavit only to have Judge Kurt Engelhardt, David Vitter’s former campaign manager, ignore a clear cut ethical violation. We’ll circle back to that.

Here is the deal from a layman’s perspective since we’ve written a good bit on the use of out of state hired guns. Sometimes an insurer has a case comes along that needs to go away no matter the means or methods.  Since not all of the insurance defense bar are unethical scudda beans sometimes ethical local firms need to be moved out of the way so the right kind of lawyer can come do the dirty work.  It worked for a while with James Robie in McIntosh v State Farm. Robie has hung more than a few skins on the wall for Ed Rust and State Farm but is just one man. Another is David Jones of San Antonio Texas.

There is no view like the view from the top moderating Slabbed and I’ll add it did not take long for Jones long to figure out we were onto him.  Continue reading “Aye Aye Captain Jack. Slabbed opens Davy Jones’ locker and finds an unethical Ed Rust hired gun.”

State Farm stops "dickin" around in Oxford, files Motion to Withdraw (a Rigsby qui tam update)

Believe me folks, State Farm won’t be pressing the Wall Street Journal to pick this story up – but that’s not to say State Farm’s Motion to Withdraw isn’t breaking news, only that some may have forgotten the history of discovery in the Rigsbys’ qui tam case.

Nowadays, there’s too much evidence on the table and the latest installment  of the State Farm-created “Sticky Note Caper” in filed northern Mississippi federal court proved no more effective than “dickin” around with oiled silk paper.

The “Sticky Note Caper” actually began with a Court in Washington, D.C. before it moved to Kentucky.  Oxford, where  State Farm’s Motion to Withdraw Motion for Return of Property was filed with hubris in USA v Scruggs, however, should be the last stop.  The Motion to Withdraw summarizes this short-lived attempt to play State Farm’s Scruggs sideshow” in a three-ring circus:

On July 20, 2010, State Farm filed its motion pursuant to Rule 41(g) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, for the United States to return property that State Farm believed may have been seized by searching agents while executing search warrant(s) issued in No. 3:07-mc-24 in this district.

State Farm’s motion was primarily seeking the recovery of the original of a document, to wit, an engineering report and “sticky note.” State Farm had reason to
believe that the papers may have been in the possession of Scruggs Law Firm, P.A., and seized during the execution of search warrant(s) on the premises of Scruggs Law Firm.

On July 27, 2010, the United States filed its response to State Farm’s motion, and in its response the United States asserted that: Continue reading “State Farm stops "dickin" around in Oxford, files Motion to Withdraw (a Rigsby qui tam update)”

Thomas "Chris" McIntosh speaking on the record about settlement with State Farm – a Rigsby qui tam update

“Thomas “Chris” McIntosh trusted insurance companies before Hurricane Katrina…My grandfather was in the insurance business. My father was in the insurance business, and I grew up trusting the insurance business…you knew if you paid your premiums, they would take care of you…I trusted State Farm when they walked in my door, and I had no reason to distrust them. I had trusted them for 20 years, and I trusted them for the year after that they lied to me and defrauded me, and now I probably will never trust anybody again in my life.”

Anita Lee’s Homeowner lambasts State Farm, appearing in today’s Sun Herald, reports McIntosh speaking on the record about his settlement with State Farm – in contrast to the record speaking for McIntosh:

“As part of the settlement, the McIntoshes acknowledged in the dismissal order entered into the court record that State Farm had a “reasonable basis” for its original payment and adjusted the claim fairly.

State Farm attorney Robert Galloway quizzed McIntosh about the dismissal order during the pretrial testimony. Galloway asked McIntosh if he agreed the majority of damage to his property was caused by flooding, as the order said. McIntosh said he did not know.

“So you don’t disagree with that?” Galloway asked. “You’re just saying you don’t have personal knowledge one way or the other?

As a long day of questions drew to a close, McIntosh responded: “I vehemently disagree, and I disagreed with this and was extremely (upset) at my counsel when I read this.

“I didn’t approve it. I didn’t read it in advance. I have no doubt that State Farm wrote it and gave it to my counsel; and at this point, we were financially unable to continue, and the message was sent to us that — excuse my language — but we would never see a (expletive) dime if we didn’t settle now. It would be appealed till hell froze over.”

Frankly, it appeared hell was at least icing down when McIntosh v State Farm settled “on the date the Rigsbys… ‘Response to the second set of dispositive motions’  was due”.  SLABBED reported: Continue reading “Thomas "Chris" McIntosh speaking on the record about settlement with State Farm – a Rigsby qui tam update”

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”