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Hurricane Katrina litigation update

As I mentioned to someone earlier today, writing about Hurricane Katrina litigation is my chocolate, I can't stay away from it or get enough of it. Well, actually chocolate is my chocolate, but Katrina litigation is right up there with it. Tort baron Dickie Scruggs has pretty much had things his own way in Katrina litigation, dominating the news cycle, setting the tone of the discussion, coming up with the storylines that make the paper and the evening news. But he hit a patch of ice on the road recently when Judge William Acker of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama referred Scruggs to the U.S. Attorney's Office for prosecution of criminal contempt, for allegedly violating the judge's injunction in a case involving the "whistleblower" Rigsby sisters -- two women who worked for a State Farm contractor and secretly funneled documents from their employer to Scruggs in alleged violation of their confidentiality contracts. Here is a recent post I wrote about Judge Acker's ruling, wherein he said Scruggs had engaged in "defiance" of the court, and that may have been the nicest thing the judge said about him.

State Farm, which has been demonized by Scruggs for two years, lost no time in seizing the opportunity, and filed a motion in the Southern District of Mississippi, where Scruggs' cases were filed, asking Judge L.T. Senter Jr. to disqualify Scruggs and the entire Scruggs Katrina Group from lawsuits against State Farm on ethics grounds. The court's electronic docket shows Scruggs' response is due July 16.

Dickie Scruggs has not been used to taking a punch in these Katrina cases, much less a one-two combination to the jaw, and he immediately fired back, filing a lawsuit against State Farm the next day making civil RICO claims against the insurer -- if someone accuses you of an ethics violation, accuse them of a crime. I read the complaint, and as this post from my blog shows, I think the claims are dubious and that the complaint does not even allege all the necessary elements of a RICO claim. Incidentally, I believe in open sourcing: whenever possible my posts contain pdf's of the relevant documents so you can read them for yourself and see if you agree or disagree with me. All three of the posts linked to above have pdf's of the court documents.



Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Katherine Lazarski
Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.