“defense lawyers have been banking their money for years” – a lawyer’s perspective on Katrina litigation

“This is one of those cases where people see the verdict and the motion and think about all the money that the plaintiff’s lawyers will make. But the defense lawyers will make as much or more than the plaintiff lawyers while taking no risk. Equally as important, the defense lawyers have been banking their money for years while the plaintiff lawyers have to collect to fill a big hole.” (emphasis added)

In a comment to Katrina plantiffs win a big one, I mentioned Phillip Thomas at the Mississippi Litigation Review blog also had a post on Penthouse Homeowner’s Association v Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London.

Thomas’ blog is one of my daily reads and his most recent post on the case, Winning Plaintiff in Katrina Wind vs. Water Trial Requests $3.5 Million in Attorney’s Fees, Expenses and Interest, provided both the title and introductory quote of this post as well as a link to Plaintiffs’ attorney Don Barrett’s Motion (in Scribd format below with Exhibits added by SLABBED)

Barrett made a strong argument in support of his request for $3.5 million in fees, expenses and interest – and a “must read” IMO for attorneys on both sides of the bar.  However, what struck me as even more interesting was this paragraph in Barrett’s Affidavit documenting his personal history of litigation as justification for his $450 hourly rate:

I am presently lead counsel of the Katrina Litigation Group, a consortium of lawyers who represent hundreds of homeowners along the Mississippi Coast who were victimized first by Hurricane Katrina and then by their insurance companies. To date our group has favorably settled over 1,600 homeowners’ claims Continue reading ““defense lawyers have been banking their money for years” – a lawyer’s perspective on Katrina litigation”

Breaking News – Judge Senter denies State Farm Motion to Dismiss Rigsby qui tam!

It is abundantly clear that Richard Scruggs and the SKG used formidable public relations resources, including use of The Rendon Group, in an effort to control the public perception of the issue at the heart of this qui tam action, i.e. whether State Farm deliberately mischaracterized wind damage as flood damage in assessing claims under the insurance policies it was adjusting. As far as the wind damage claims are concerned, these attorneys were acting well within their rights as advocates for their clients who had homeowners policy claims. These attorneys were not free to disclose the existence of this qui tam action, and had their improper disclosures (Items 3,7, and 12 above) led to accounts in the public media indicating that such an action was underway, the government’s ability to investigate the Relators’ allegations might well have been compromised. But that is not the case disclosed in the record before me.

State Farm’s Motion to Dismiss the Rigsbys’ qui tam case (for violations of the seal order) was among those motions argued at the recent Status Conference. Today’s uncharacteristically long Memorandum Opinion on Judge Senter’s denial – the 14 page Scribd document at the end of this post – is the first Judge Senter has issued on those motions. One of the more surprising aspects of his decision is his consideration of the partial lifting of the seal that took place on Order of Judge Walker in January 2007:

The first question I must consider is the effect of the partial lifting of the seal on January 1, 2007. At the time Magistrate Judge Walker entered his order partially lifting the seal, this action had been filed and sealed for some seven months. In partially lifting the seal, the Court authorized the Realtors to make disclosures concerning this action to judicial officers presiding in the Alabama litigation. The order partially lifting the seal does not specify that the judicial disclosures themselves be made under seal, and this order could therefore be reasonably interpreted to authorize these judicial disclosures in pleadings and other documents distributed to the litigants and their attorneys in the Alabama litigation. This type of disclosure would effectively make the original seal of the qui tam case moot. In these circumstances, I consider the relevant period of the seal to be from April 26, 2006, (the filing of the original FCA complaint) through January1, 2007 (the partial lifting of the seal).

State Farm identified a total of 48 incidents the Company claimed as violations of the seal order on the Rigsby qui tam complaint. One item alone (#48) required the Court to review a “106-page compilation of e-mails concerning media contacts”. Judge Senter’s Memorandum Opinion lists all, starting on page 1 and continuing until page 8, concluding with, “State Farm contends that the disclosures reflected in these documents constitute such egregious violations of the FCA’s seal requirement, 31 U.S.C. §3730(b)(2), that dismissal of this action is justified. Judge Senter, obviously, thought not: Continue reading “Breaking News – Judge Senter denies State Farm Motion to Dismiss Rigsby qui tam!”

Breaking: One by one the North Mississippi “railroad” house of card comes tumbling down

Not defending the attempted fee stripping of John Jones but Mr Jones won’t be taking anything extra from the innocent.

We find that the trial court had the discretionary authority to impose sanctions against SKG based upon the acts of a single partner that occurred in the ordinary course of business of SKG. However, we conclude that the trial court erred by finding that Richard Scruggs’s misconduct occurred in the ordinary course of SKG business.

The Sun Herald wasted no time putting up the news flash from the A/P. Glad to see the Mississippi Supreme Court is more energetic than certain lazy circuit court judges that let certain blogs write their legal rulings for them. Continue reading “Breaking: One by one the North Mississippi “railroad” house of card comes tumbling down”

Catching Up: Anita Lee Reports on Former SKG Clients

Nowdy has been doing PACER searches for a couple of weeks now and her findings are born out in Anita Lee’s report from the Saturday Sun Herald. Insurance industry bloggers predicting the demise of these cases were a wee bit premature with their prognostications.

…..The Scruggs Katrina Group, reincarnated as the Katrina Litigation Group, was disqualified in April from representing policyholders in 180 lawsuits SKG filed against State Farm. Judge L.T. Senter Jr. ruled then the member law firms knew or should have known Scruggs unethically paid two former insurance adjusters who were potential witnesses in some of the cases.

The Texas law firm Provost Humphrey, recommended by SKG lead attorney Don Barrett, wound up with 62 percent of the 112 cases in which policyholders retained new attorneys, with Coast attorneys taking on the remainder. Continue reading “Catching Up: Anita Lee Reports on Former SKG Clients”

While Senter’s Qui Tam Burns, Acker, Renfroe & State Farm Churn

We have a new Renfroe v Rigsby page that we are still updating with docs as they have come out from under seal. Belle & Nowdy have literally spent hours pouring through them helping make me look good to our readers. The ladies are simply heaven sent gifts to the slabbed.

This post will be long out of necessity. As Nowdy posted yesterday even his worship, Judge Acker pointed out Renfroe V Rigsby and Ex Rel Rigsby were joined at the hip. To get our readers up to speed we start by linking a New York Times News story from January 2007 on the proposed settlement between SKG and State Farm that Judge Senter ultimately rejected:

To close the deal, State Farm wants the approval of Mississippi’s attorney general, Jim Hood, and the state’s insurance regulator, George Dale, lawyers close to the talks said. As a condition of the deal, these lawyers said, Mr. Hood would be required to drop a criminal investigation into State Farm’s handling of claims as well as a civil lawsuit against State Farm and other insurers. Continue reading “While Senter’s Qui Tam Burns, Acker, Renfroe & State Farm Churn”