State Farm’s Protective Orders are Dispositive Motions in disguise – more games scheduled for the qui tam Olympics

Companies will soon learn that the best protection and defense against a potentially serious and morale lessening whistleblower suit is to have in place a corporate culture that emphasizes ethical conduct by all involved in the company.

In contrast to the opinion expressed in a lecture at the Brookings Institute, the dockets of Katrina litigation provide ample evidence that the corporate culture of State Farm is one that, instead, views a protective order as the Company’s best protection and defense.  At SLABBED we call the tactic gutting a case to settlement.  However, by any name,  the process begins with a protective order that consistently ends up disposing of so much evidence it effectively disposes of most plaintiffs’ Constitutional right to a jury trial and, in turn, either disposes of the case itself or forces settlement,.

SLABBED has published numerous posts documenting how the routine protective orders granted State Farm have repeatedly been used to shield damaging evidence of State Farm’s claims handling following Katrina. One such post quoted a plaintiff’s attorney who wrote:

It is black-letter law that a litigant who might be embarrassed, incriminated, or exposed to litigation through dissemination of materials is not, without more, entitled to the Court’s protection. Stated otherwise, those types of harm do not constitute “good cause” for entry of a protective order under the Rules…

State Farm has not right to an automatic protection from the public being granted access to evidence of its misconduct in the arena of responding to Hurricane Katrina claims in Mississippi.

Discovery in a qui tam case, more than any other, should be transparent for the Relators stand in the place of the USA which in turn represents the public interest.  We the people, therefore, have a concomitant right to know.  Nonetheless, as SLABBED recently reported in Qui Tam Olympics – the protection game: ex rel Rigsby v State Farm, State Farm filed for a Protective Order seeking to limit the Rigsbys’ discovery. Counsel for the Rigsbys has now filed the Relators’ Response in Opposition :

State Farm asserts that the contested discovery requests “do not pertain to the McIntosh flood claim and amount to mere speculation by the Rigsbys of the type that has been condemned by this Court.” State Farm’s Motion at 6. In fact, the Relators have tailored carefully their discovery requests based on this Court’s August 10, 2009 Order…and  this Court’s related rulings in individual policyholder cases. Accordingly, all of the discovery sought by the Relators seeks information that may lead to admissible evidence regarding whether the Defendants submitted a false claim with respect the McIntosh flood claim. Continue reading “State Farm’s Protective Orders are Dispositive Motions in disguise – more games scheduled for the qui tam Olympics”

How hot is the hot spot for Rigsby qui tam?

Really hot – and much larger than the hot spot identified here and here – if Derek Wyatt’s 30(b)(6) deposition of Stephan Hinkle in Pontius v State Farm is considered:

FireShot capture #024 - 'Popps Ferry Rd, Biloxi, Harrison, Mississippi to 1982 Bayside Dr, Biloxi, MS 39532 - 2
Area identified in quoted text from 30(b)(6) deposition of Stephan Hinkle (A - C) shown with location of McIntosh (D) and Bossier property (E)

I actually was in Biloxi when I wrote…[the Wind-Water Protocol]… And I had done — Iwent out and saw the damage, basically, and saw the — well, the first area I went to when I was there was right near this claim office on Pops Ferry Road in Biloxi (Location A). There’s this development called Destiny Plantation. (Location C) It’s right on the back bay of Biloxi. And I had occasion to drive down there. And I — there, I comprehended the nature of the damage, is what made me kind of outline in my mind how to do this.

But the gate to Destiny Plantation is on Brody Road (Location B), which is about a half a mile inland from the shore. You go in the gate and there was no damage whatsoever to the homes immediately  around the gate. You take the road south toward the bay, and immediately you notice where the water stopped. And by the time you get down to the bay itself, the homes that were built were totally destroyed. They were slab homes. Which indicated to me that we’ve got a situation here.

How many other hot spots were there given the estimated number of  State Farm policyholders with dual coverage Hinkle provided applied to the flooded areas of all three coastal counties and not just this one area in Biloxi?

BY MR. WYATT:

Q. Okay. Before I get too far afield, I want to remember where we started, but you mentioned something yesterday. Mississippi had about 80,000 P&C Katrina claims. Continue reading “How hot is the hot spot for Rigsby qui tam?”