Pass the popcorn (and the Rebel Yell)

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The plaintiff’s property was located on the Jordan River in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi which endured the pounding winds of hurricane Katrina’s northeast side for hours before the eye wall crossed it and then endured many more hours of wind after the eye passed. Eventually, storm covered the property, but not before the property endured the maximum sustained winds well as one of the longest periods of sustained hurricane force winds in recorded history. During this onslaught, their entire property was destroyed on August 29, 2005, and the plaintiff’s lost all of their personal possessions located upon the premises as well. [See photo as Exhibit A].

Plaintiff’s reported their loss to State Farm, through its national call center while they were still evacuated in Northwest Louisiana. State Farm eventually assigned adjuster, Heather Keyt, an inexperienced adjuster to adjust the plaintiff’s claims. Ms. Keyt quickly recommended that the claim be denied without supporting evidence except for a alleged report by the plaintiff on the cause of the loss being storm surge

….when asked to explain how she came to determine that the house was a total loss due to flood, Ms. Keyt’s consistent and yet unreliable “fact” was a description made in the initial claim recorded by State Farm at its national call center received immediately following Hurricane Katrina. This section of the claim file that maintained the initial information is referred to as the “Facts” section. [Exhibit F].

Mark Flores, one of the insureds and a joint owner of the home, made the initial reporting of the claim. Mark Flores was evacuated to Natchitoches, Louisiana, approximately 40 miles from the Texas border, at the time he made the call to make a claim, and could not have known the cause of the loss of his home. [Exhibit G; Mark Flores depo., pp. 13-14]. Continue reading “Pass the popcorn (and the Rebel Yell)”

Still got some popcorn? Grab a chair and watch State Farm's training video – "Which Was It…Wind or Water?"

In Flores et al v State Farm, “The initial focus of the punitive liability of State Farm is on its adjuster Heather Keyt… One specific educational source that was identified by Ms. Keyt was an instructional video on “how to tell the difference” in causation questions over wind versus water”.

State Farm has not produced that video under an assertion of some proprietary argument. That video is not under seal, but was disclosed in the case of Watkins v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co., #CJ- 2000-303, Grady County Court (Ok. 2007), and is entitled “Which Was It … Wind or Water?”

In…[Part 1 @ 7:05 of the three-part]…”video the instructor suggests as a general rule that to determine the cause as either wind or water, “go across the street, lean against your car look, at the building, and ask yourself, which was it wind or water?”

This general suggestion is consistent with the testimony of Ms. Keyt, and it forms the framework for the inspection that was conducted by State Farm’s adjuster.

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The Flores’ plaintiffs “Response Brief in Opposition to [State Farm’s] Motion for Summary Judgment” is more than just pictures worth a thousand words.  The discussion of related Mississippi case law on Good Faith and Fair Dealing and the Summary Judgment Standard applied to Punitive and/or Extra-Contractual Damages is thorough: Continue reading “Still got some popcorn? Grab a chair and watch State Farm's training video – "Which Was It…Wind or Water?"”

Grab the popcorn – Video depositions of State Farm adjusters hyperlinked in plaintiffs' Response

Enter stage left: Rachel Savoy – seasoned adjuster of the policyholder’s claims under both their Flood and State Farm policies (Taranto v State Farm)

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Q: …Can you give me a description of what, in you experience and knowledge of adjusting claims, what does concurrent causation mean to you in handling a claim?
A:  Any loss that occurs with the covered loss and a non-covered loss whether it be before or after or during is not covered. [Exhibit C; Savoy depo at pp. 32-33; http://bit.ly/bAjCJ1].

Savoy further explains the application of the concurrent cause part of the policy,

Q. OK and when you say that something is not covered if the cause of the loss is combined to create a loss in any sequence of events; is that correct?
A. That’s my understanding.
Q. Ok. And is that a method with which you have applied the concurrent causation exclusion over your experience over the eleven, twelve years?
A. Yes.  [Exhibit C; Savoy Depo at p. 33; http://bit.ly/aOCPI8].

Compliments of Anita Lee’s blog in the Sun Herald, we have An entertaining legal brief? You bet.  The briefs – Plaintiffs’ Response Brief in Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment (Toranto et al v State Farm) and Plaintiffs’ Response Brief in Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment (Flores et al v State Farm) are as solidly grounded in law as they are innovative in format. Plaintiffs in both cases are represented by Mississippi attorney Darryl Gibbs with Louisiana’s John Denena Pro Hac Vice. Continue reading “Grab the popcorn – Video depositions of State Farm adjusters hyperlinked in plaintiffs' Response”