And the Wall Street Journal put two reporters on the story and still managed to butcher it. An Allstate Hurricane Katrina Fraud Update.

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.

I mention all this because Ashby Jones and Joanne Lublin recently wrote a story for the Wall Street Journal on the topic of corporate whistleblowers and the new financial re-regulation legislation which is so full of self-serving corporate PR spin these two journalists should be ashamed, Continue reading “And the Wall Street Journal put two reporters on the story and still managed to butcher it. An Allstate Hurricane Katrina Fraud Update.”

Giving them the Feldman Part 1: Slabbed explores a few earlier cases involving the little guy versus big business in Louisiana's Eastern District Federal Courts as we tie in litigation against big oil to the post Katrina litigation against big insurance.

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:

Employee sued employer and supervisor to recover damages for injuries allegedly sustained in workplace. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, Martin L.C. Feldman, J., entered judgment for defendants after jury trial, and employee appealed. The Court of Appeals, Politz, Chief Judge, held that employee’s substantial rights to fair trial were impaired by defendants’ inferring that employee brought fraudulent claim from fact that his counsel had previously represented former co-worker in similar lawsuit, by likelihood that jury heard trial judge threaten employee’s counsel with jail during sidebar, and by trial court’s preventing employee’s counsel from countering defendants’ aspersions. Continue reading “Giving them the Feldman Part 1: Slabbed explores a few earlier cases involving the little guy versus big business in Louisiana's Eastern District Federal Courts as we tie in litigation against big oil to the post Katrina litigation against big insurance.”

Shall we dance? Magistrate Shushan invites Allstate and Pilot adjusting to the party – Order grants in-part Motion to Amend Complaint REVISED AND CORRECTED

Oops!  With an apology to Judge Vance and another to SLABBED readers, I have corrected my error and appropriately attributed the Order discussed in this post to Magistrate Shushan.

Magistrate Shushan’s autopsy-Order on the 2nd Amended Complaint filed by the Branch Consultants poses a new and entirely different challenge for reporting on an order issued in Branch –  turning a technical manual into a non-fiction novel.  In that context, Allstate is somewhat of a MacGuffin, “a plot element that catches the viewers’ attention…Commonly, though not always, the MacGuffin is the central focus of the film in the first act, and later declines in importance as the struggles and motivations of characters play out”.

Although Allstate is certain to be the “central focus” of public interest in the Order, it is important to note the Magistrate doesn’t know how this character will play out and her Order” is stayed until the District Judge resolves any appeal of the order”.   In that regard, a footnote in the Order is telling of the story at this point:

In support of it motion for leave to amend, Branch states:

To be clear, whether Allstate is entitled to immunity under the first-to-file provision of the False Claims Act is not at issue in this motion (for leave to amend), and Branch has not attempted to fully brief the issue here. Rather, what is at issue is merely whether Branch may amend its complaint to attempt to state a claim against Allstate.

The story of claims handling following Hurricane Katrina is more of a thriller than a typical mystery.  However, the Magistrate’s dénouement of the plot missed important clues and I momentarily digress from the discussion of Allstate’s role to examine her conclusion and related denial of the proposed incorporation of an inflated-revenue scheme.  Branch alleged a loss-shifting scheme in both the original and first amended complaint.

In her Order, Magistrate Shushan declared, “The loss-shifting and inflated-revenue motives create two entirely different schemes”.  I contend otherwise and suggest her decision indicates knowledge of the law can not overcome lack of experience with what “po’ folks” call “getting by” else she, too, would recognize the two are one in the same. 

On a much larger scale, the situation insurance companies faced after Katrina was similar.  Like those who can’t meet their obligations when faced with an unexpected cost, insurers employed strategies that delay payment of thousands of policyholder claims and made partial payment on thousands more in the guise of mediated settlements. However, they also engaged in a “broad scheme” to “get by” for reasons that have been well documented since Katrina such as investments that were worth less or worthless.  Continue reading “Shall we dance? Magistrate Shushan invites Allstate and Pilot adjusting to the party – Order grants in-part Motion to Amend Complaint REVISED AND CORRECTED”

Please release me, let me go Protection in Branch qui tam in the context of Judge Vance’s post-trial Order in Weiss v Allstate

Branch is rockin’ and rollin’ over Protective Orders!  Chain of fools was the opening act for please release me, let me go Elvis-impersonating Allstate’s attempt to place trial exhibits under seal in Weiss v AllstateJudge Vance’s post-trial Order in Weiss provides context for an examination of the protective motions and orders in Branch:

To counter the presumption in favor of the public’s common law right of access to court records, Allstate argues that the Court should seal the documents designated Exhibits 7, 31, and 31A because other courts have found similar insurance materials to be confidential in nature, and thus subject to a protective order. Allstate also asserts that it would be prejudiced in litigating other claims arising from Hurricane Katrina if plaintiffs in those other cases had access to the exhibits outside of the normal course and scope of discovery. The Court finds that neither interest is sufficient to overcome the right of public access in this instance.

Allstate does not point to a single document or excerpt of a document within the approximately 185 pages that comprise Exhibits 7, 31, and 31A that might be harmful to its competitive position. Its failure to do so is particularly telling given the facially benign nature of these exhibits. Exhibit 7 includes a press release, a list of publicly available phone numbers, tips to policyholders affected by Hurricane Katrina, and suggested answers for its personnel to use when responding to questions from policyholders with hurricane claims. Exhibit 31 and 31A contain customer service guidelines to be followed by Allstate personnel, including information that was intended to be passed along to customers. It is not apparent that these documents contain sensitive material of any kind.

Judge Vance’s use of the word benign provides an interesting contrast to “our documents are malignant” espoused by insurer defendants in Katrina policyholder litigation.  As a result, there has been an epidemic of protection orders in federal courts in both Mississippi and Louisiana. However, as the Order indicates, insurers cry “malignant” but submit the “benign”.

Why our courts have been quick to issue protective orders will be one of the legacy questions of Katrina litigation.  Some have suggested the Magistrate Judges were convinced protective orders were the only way to assure plaintiff’s access to needed documents – a suggestion that begs another why.  Rather than speculate at the answers, let’s look at evidence of alternatives. Continue reading “Please release me, let me go Protection in Branch qui tam in the context of Judge Vance’s post-trial Order in Weiss v Allstate”

Following Frontline – view evidence of a false NFIP claim

katrina_road_homeMike Wells was the adjuster assigned to the Allstate claim of Robert Weiss.   Dr. and Mrs. Weiss disputed the results and subsequently filed suit.

Weiss versus Allstate became one of the landmark Katrina insurance cases in its verdict; but, a closer look at the trial testimony reveals even more startling facts.

Read an excerpt from the transcript <http://www.slabbed.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/binder1-testimony-of-adjuster-re-weiss-claim2.pdf> with Wells denying he prepared the Weiss claim <http://www.slabbed.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/flood-claim-filed-by-allstate2.pdf> and confirming the information Allstate submitted to the federal government (NFIP) was false.  If Wells did not complete these federal forms, who did?

Are our readers curious as to why this $250,000 theft has not been prosecuted or even investigated while Mississippi and Louisiana residents are being prosecuted for wrongly accepting $1,000-$2,000 FEMA checks?

SLABBED got a tip that some of these answers will be be available in the next few days if we follow Frontline to katrinaroadhome.org <http://www.katrinaroadhome.org/> for a more in depth review of the insurance factors in the post-Katrina recovery.