Results matching “katrina”

Katrina litigation is still hot - PointOfLaw Forum

Katrina-related legal developments are happening fast and furious. A sampling: a federal magistrate extended State Farm's injunction against Mississippi AG Jim Hood's criminal investigation of the insurer, while State Farm has filed court documents with explosive allegations of illegal collusion between Hood and prominent attorney Dickie Scruggs; a Louisiana jury returned a bad faith verdict against State Farm yesterday and a juror speaks out on their reasons; the Attorney General of Louisiana has filed yet another of those lawsuits alleging insurer collusion in Katrina claims adjusting; and outgoing Mississippi Insurance Commissioner George Dale says a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding State Farm's anti-concurrent cause language vindicates his approach to insurers and shows that insurance companies actually paid claims money they did not owe because of prior adverse legal rulings at the trial court level.

Election results - PointOfLaw Forum

Governorships: Haley Barbour (R-Miss.), nationally prominent as a backer of lawsuit reform, easily defeated trial lawyer/social conservative Democrat John Arthur Eaves.

Attorney generalships: Mississippi incumbent AG Jim Hood, who is as popular with the litigation lobby as Barbour is unpopular, crushed a Republican challenger (who, as noted earlier, is a successful plaintiff's lawyer himself). In Kentucky, Democrat Jack Conway easily defeated socially conservative Republican Stan Lee, who had tried to raise Conway's closeness to trial lawyers as a campaign issue.

Judgeships. Democrats are on the way to capturing two open seats on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, after a hard-fought struggle in which trial lawyers donated munificently and a pro-business group from out of state then responded in kind.

Other contests. By a fairly broad margin, Washington state voters gave their approval to Referendum 67, the trial-lawyer-backed measure to permit triple-damage suits by policyholders against insurance companies. As will be recalled, Dickie Scruggs engineered the defeat of longtime Mississippi insurance commissioner George Dale in the Democratic primary because Dale was insufficiently cooperative with Scruggs's wishes on Katrina policy litigation; Magnolia State voters have now proceeded to elect the GOP candidate in the race, Mike Chaney. [Revised and updated as of 11:30 a.m. Eastern]

Things are probably pretty jolly around State Farm headquarters these days: nemesis attorney Dickie Scruggs is being prosecuted for alleged criminal contempt, the insurer is suing Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, and today the Fifth Circuit handed the company a decisive win in the appeal of a lower court decision that had declared invalid a key provision of State Farm insurance contracts -- its anti-concurrent cause language. Do you suppose State Farm has put a few cases of champagne on ice in case Hood loses today's general election in Mississippi?

State Farm sues Mississippi AG Hood - PointOfLaw Forum

I've been following Hurricane Katrina litigation and politics for quite some time, and have seen many odd twists and turns, but this is the most unusual development yet: State Farm, which has been criminally investigated and civilly sued by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, has taken the fight to Hood and has filed its own suit against him, alleging bad faith criminal investigations, unethical collusion with attorney Dickie Scruggs and violations of State Farm's constitutional rights. Read all about it at this post at Insurance Coverage Law Blog, including pdfs of the pleadings. This comes, of course, just days before Mississippi's general election, in which Hood is running for re-election.

"Facing Mother Nature" - PointOfLaw Forum

Political attacks on insurers post-Katrina won't prevent the next hurricane and could very well make its devastation worse, argue Prof. (and PoL contributor) Martin Grace and his Georgia State colleague Robert W. Klein: "any legitimate insurance arrangement, public or private, must manage its catastrophe exposure so that it can afford to pay its claims obligations if a disaster occurs. State and federal legislators do not appear to acknowledge this reality." The article's in the new issue of the Cato Institute's Regulation (PDF)(via).

Federal Judge Peter Beer yesterday dismissed a Louisiana "whistleblower" lawsuit filed under the federal False Claims Act that alleged massive insurance company fraud on the government in Hurricane Katrina claims adjusting. Beer cited an earlier-filed, similar lawsuit brought by prominent Mississippi trial lawyer Dickie Scruggs on behalf of his clients, the Rigsby sisters, as a jurisdictional bar to the Louisiana case. Both the Louisiana case and the Scruggs-Rigsby lawsuit, Ex rel. Rigsby, have been discussed in recent evidentiary filings by special prosecutors appointed by another federal judge, William Acker, to pursue a charge of criminal contempt against Scruggs. Click here to read my post at Insurance Coverage Law Blog about the two False Claims Act lawsuits and how they factor into the criminal case against Scruggs.

United States v. Dickie Scruggs - PointOfLaw Forum

The special prosecutors in the criminal contempt of court case against prominent Mississippi lawyer Dickie Scruggs have unveiled more of their evidence against Scruggs in federal court filings in Alabama. Prosecutors accuse Scruggs of willfully violating the terms of federal judge William Acker's injunction in a civil case brought against his clients, Kerri and Cori Rigsby, who took 5,000 to 15,000 pages of State Farm Hurricane Katrina claims files and gave them to Scruggs. The civil case, for breach of their confidentiality agreements, was brought by the employer of the Rigsby sisters, E.A. Renfroe and Co., a State Farm claims contractor.

Prosecutors accuse Scruggs of devising a "sham" strategy of pretending to misinterpret the injunction so he wouldn't have to return the documents as ordered. Instead of sending them back to Renfroe's attorneys, he had at least two conversations with Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, a close friend, right after Acker entered the injunction, about fears that Renfroe's attorneys would violate a protective order accompanying the injunction and tell Renfroe and State Farm of the documents' contents. So Scruggs sent Hood the documents, even though the Rigsby sisters had previously provided copies of all the documents to Hood. Scruggs allegedly was trying to find safe harbor in an exception in the injunction for cooperating with law enforcement.

Scruggs did not represent the Rigsby sisters in the civil action, which is ongoing. Instead, the basis of their attorney-client relationship was the documents, as well as a qui tam "whistleblower" claim the sisters brought against several insurance companies, and a wrongful discharge suit they brought against Renfroe, which was filed and then voluntarily dismissed a short time later. Unusually for an attorney-client relationship, Scruggs also hired the two as litigation consultants, after they quit their jobs at Renfroe, at salaries of $150,000 a year. Prosecutors claim Scruggs' motive in violating the injunction was profit -- the documents were valuable to him in litigation and as leverage, particularly as long as he could keep State Farm in the dark about which documents they were and what they said. For recent posts I've written at Insurance Coverage Law Blog on prosecutors' filings, click here and here.

Was Paul Minor framed? - PointOfLaw Forum

In a commentary that's longer on insinuation than on proof, New York Times editorialist Adam Cohen contends in Thursday's paper that prominent Mississippi trial lawyer Paul Minor, sentenced last month to eleven years in a long-running judicial bribery scandal, was framed by a Republican conspiracy. Cohen's argument runs more or less as follows: Minor may have arranged loans and financial favors for local judges, but "everyone" in the justice system down there does similarly "questionable" things, so "a prosecutor can haul any lawyer and judge he doesn�t like before a grand jury and charge corruption". Really? Any lawyer, and any judge? There are no lawyers in Mississippi who refrain from funneling money under the table to judges as Minor did, and no judges who refrain from accepting money of this sort? Names and particulars would be most welcome here, but are quite absent from Cohen's account.

Minor, of course, was not just hauled before a grand jury but convicted by an actual trial jury of the charges Cohen dismisses as "unconvincing". But let that pass. The point is that since anyone could be prosecuted but only Democratic donor Minor was, the explanation must lie in political favoritism; on this point Cohen cites Minor's own lawyers, no doubt a very objective source, who "say prosecutors were not interested in going after similar activity by trial lawyers who contributed to Republicans". Which trial lawyers are those? Again, Cohen mentions none.

Much heavy breathing ensues about how the whole thing was a plot to knock off the trial lawyers as a political base for Mississippi Democrats. Indeed, "the case intimidated trial lawyers into stopping their political activity." That must be why the Times reported on Wednesday that the Mississippi Democratic Party is running a successful plaintiff's lawyer for governor, why another successful plaintiff's lawyer has captured the Republican (!) nomination for attorney general against an incumbent who is himself joined at the political hip with trial lawyers, why trial lawyer donations just knocked off an incumbent insurance commissioner who was not sufficiently cooperative with the wishes of Katrina litigators, and so forth. If Minor's downfall occasioned a collapse of the political clout of trial lawyers in Mississippi, someone must have forgotten to tell the trial lawyers about it.

If you think Cohen might be going a bit out on a limb in asserting a scandal based on this evidence, wait till you see the version of the same argument on offer at Harper's, where Columbia law lecturer and Balkinization contributor Scott Horton wholeheartedly endorses a master-key set of conspiracy theories in which villains that include Antonin Scalia and his duck-hunting partners, in concert with many other sinister interests, gleefully manipulate Magnolia State politics from afar. Horton relies heavily on unnamed secret informants, such as "two sources, one of them inside of the Justice Department" who assure him that the conspiracy is even worse than he could imagine, and that trial lawyers nationwide are being maliciously brought up on technicalities in a manner reminiscent of an Eastern European dictatorship.

Any account of prosecutorial favoritism in the Minor affair, of course, must begin (and perhaps end) with the success of Richard ("Dickie") Scruggs at dodging charges, despite having taken part in some questionable transactions. Scruggs's defenders would maintain that his role in the transactions was simply less egregious than Minor's. Horton prefers the alternative explanation that Scruggs, who is the brother-in-law of Trent Lott, wields more political clout than Minor. To make the favoritism story fit, Horton presents Scruggs as a figure who "tends to support the Republicans, not the Democrats", which at the least oversimplifies the complicated bipartisan political persona of the self-identified Democrat, "almost exclusively a supporter of Mississippi Democrats" and a key backer of national Democrats as well. And it also seems to miss the point that if national Chamber of Commerce types had been secretly pulling the prosecutorial strings, as Horton repeatedly hints, you'd think they would infinitely have preferred to nail the big-league national player (Scruggs) and let the locally famous one (Minor) get off than the reverse. But why let such complications get in the way of a good story?

Around the web, September 25 - PointOfLaw Forum

Scruggs can stay on Katrina cases - PointOfLaw Forum

Judge Senter rules that State Farm waited too long to object to his ethical transgressions. PoL contributor David Rossmiller has details.

By Stephen M. Bainbridge

This piece was originally published in the Washington Examiner, 7-31-2007. Reprinted with permission.

Washington, D.C. — Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that the climate change phenomenon commonly called "global warming" exists and is being caused, at least in part, by human activity. Who is responsible? The only sensible answer is, everybody. We all contribute to the release of greenhouse gases, as did our ancestors going back at least to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

One would therefore think litigation is no more an appropriate response to global warming than litigation would be to any so-called "act of god." One would be wrong.

Earlier this year, Texas trial lawyer Stephen Susman told the Dallas Morning News that "You're going to see some really serious exposure on the part of companies that are emitting CO2." He added, for good measure, that "I can't say for sure it's going to be as big as the tobacco settlements, but then again it may even be bigger."

Indeed, trial lawyers are gearing up to turn global warming into their next pot of gold. A coalition of environmental groups and cities are suing the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Export-Import Bank of the United States for making loans to finance oil pipelines, oil drilling, and similar projects that supposedly result in a net emission of billions of tons of carbon dioxide. After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans trial lawyers Gerald Mapes and Timothy Porter sued dozens of energy companies, claiming they had contributed to global warming.

Last year, Business Week reported that there were 16 pending global warming cases of these sorts pending around the country. More are surely in the pipeline, so to speak.

Indeed, the prospect of a boom in global warming litigation is prompting law firms to begin setting up units specializing in climate change issues. According to the Dallas Morning News, for example, Dallas law firms Vinson & Elkins and Thompson & Knight have set up global warming units with 41 and 26 lawyers, respectively.

If it weren't for the precedents set by tobacco, alcohol, and obesity lawsuits, one might be tempted to dismiss climate change litigation out of hand. After all, the law typically requires a showing of causation. Before you can hold me liable, you must show that but for my conduct you would not have been injured. Typically, you also must show that my conduct was the proximate cause of your injury.

How can one firm—or even one industry—be blamed for a global phenomenon that took decades to arise? Making causality findings and apportioning responsibility in this context is ludicrous. Yet, what might a New Orleans jury still smarting over Katrina do if they got the chance to decide Mapes and Porter's suit?

This is a classic example of why tort reform is a pressing need. The Institute for Legal Reform offers some chilling statistics: "America's civil justice system is the world's most expensive, with a direct cost in 2005 of $261 billion, or 2.09 percent of GDP.

"Tort costs were $880 per U.S. citizen in 2005, meaning the average American family of four paid a 'litigation tax' of more than $3,500 due to increased costs from lawsuits and other liability expenses that force businesses to raise the price of products and services. That cost is equivalent to nearly an 8 percent tax on wages."

These costs are having a dramatic impact on the US economy. A nonpartisan report prepared for New York Senator Charles Schumer and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, found that the "propensity toward litigation" in the United States is "driving growing international concerns about participating in US financial markets."

Along with regulatory excesses like the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the litigation industry in this country is making our capital markets and our economy as a whole less competitive.

It's time for Congress and the president to step up with legislation that take the question of global warming out of the arena of ad hoc judicial decision making and put it into the hands of our elected officials. Both fairness and efficiency demand it.

UCLA Law Professor Stephen Bainbridge is a member of The Examiner's Blog Board of Contributors and blogs at www.professorbainbridge.com.

Fifth Circuit backs insurer in key Katrina case - PointOfLaw Forum

Insurers took a few hard knocks at the federal trial court level in Katrina litigation, but on appeal before the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, they have seen much better results. The latest example is Leonard v. Nationwide, a case of great importance where the Fifth Circuit ruled yesterday in favor of Nationwide and declared a key provision in its property insurance contracts -- the so-called anti-concurrent cause language -- unambiguous and enforceable. Because almost all insurers draft their property policies to include such language -- there are a few exceptions -- the industry was watching this case very closely. The result, however, is not much of a surprise: anti-concurrent cause language has widely been upheld.

It was not upheld, however, in the bench trial in Mississippi last year before Judge L.T. Senter Jr. The trial result was mostly OK for Nationwide: its contractual exclusion for flood damages was upheld, Senter basically agreed with the relatively small amount of covered wind damage the insurer paid to Paul and Julie Leonard, and Judge Senter said there were no misrepresentations or other factors that would justify reforming the contract, or in other words, altering the written terms to match a purported prior oral agreement.

However, Judge Senter also said that the insurance policy's anti-concurrent cause provision was ambiguous. Nationwide could not accept this, and had to appeal -- anti-concurrent cause provisions have been a feature of many property insurance policies for more than 20 years and were introduced to contractually prevent what insurers saw as judicial activism that stuck them with losses they never contemplated. As I have explained at great length in numerous writings, including this post today on the Leonard case at Insurance Coverage Law Blog, Senter did not need to rule on the anti-concurrent provisions of the contract at all, because the damage to the Leonard house did not involve concurrent multiple causes of the same damage: instead, the wind and the flood were two single causes of different damage. Single-force causation does not implicate the anti-concurrent cause language for an obvious reason: concurrent causes must be multiple causes, and a cause can't be concurrent with itself. Analysis of causation in property insurance contracts is tricky business, and taking off down the wrong path almost always leads to wrong results. The Fifth Circuit basically upheld Senter's rulings, except it reversed his verdict on the anti-concurrent language. Unfortunately, the Fifth Circuit, like Judge Senter, also said more than it needed to, and its own causation analysis was flawed and probably will lead to some confusion further down the road. The Leonards' attorney, of course, was noted tort lawyer Dickie Scruggs, who, true to form, immediately began spinning. He claims the case will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is not much of a threat. The court will have no interest whatsoever in taking a case involving the interpretation of state insurance law.

Over . . . Dale - PointOfLaw Forum

Just short of two years from the date Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Mississippi, the storm claimed a political casualty: Mississippi Insurance Commissioner George Dale, who got on the wrong side of gajillionaire tort, asbestos, tobacco and insurance policyholder lawyer Dickie Scruggs and was defeated earlier this month by a Scruggs-backed and Scruggs-bankrolled candidate.

Scruggs, who was a driving force behind many of the thousands of Katrina insurance lawsuits in Mississippi, employed his usual style of treating litigation as having three components: law, public relations and politics. Dale, he believed, was too soft on insurance companies and stood in his way. Particularly galling to Scruggs, it appeared, was that Dale put together a deal with State Farm for the insurer to voluntarily review some 36,000 Katrina insurance claims, after a similar deal Scruggs had reached with the insurer to certify and settle a class action was shot down by federal judge L.T. Senter Jr. One might note that Scruggs and other lawyers in the Scruggs Katrina Group lost a big payday when the class action deal did not work.

Dale was serving his eighth term as insurance commissioner when Katrina hit. Before the storm, he planned to retire, but said he felt obligated to see the storm's aftermath through. Scruggs came after Dale hard. He called Dale "political toast" and took out a full-page ad in a Mississippi newspaper depicting Dale as a pig with lipstick, lounging in a beauty shop while State Farm dolled him up to fool the voters, a reference to Dale's acceptance of insurance company money to finance his campaign and his alleged coziness with insurers.

Here is a post I wrote about Dale's defeat in the Mississippi primary. Insurance commissioner is a position that has relatively little power and is one that, normally, few people care about -- what's the name of your state's insurance commissioner? -- but the Dale race attracted more votes than any other on the statewide ballot. Despite the fact the Coastal counties hardest hit by Katrina went against Dale in a big way, he came within a pig's whisker of pulling the race out.

While Katrina litigation has brought further success to Scruggs, he, like Dale, has not remained untouched. As a result of his involvement with the "whistleblower" Rigsby sisters, who took thousands of pages of documents from a State Farm contractor that they and Scruggs claimed showed bad faith Katrina settlement practices, Scruggs allegedly violated an injunction by federal judge William Acker, who appointed special prosecutors to bring charges of criminal contempt against Scruggs.

More on Dickie Scruggs - PointOfLaw Forum

In other post-Katrina insurance news, Mississippi trial lawyer Dickie Scruggs, a major force in post-hurricane contract-shredding litigation, is continuing in his battle with Mississippi Insurance Commissioner George Dale. Scruggs recently donated $250,000 to a group called Mississipians for Fair Elections, in a further attempt to drive Dale from office.

Calling himself "an advocate for families who continue to be abused by big insurance," this latest action is par for the course for Scruggs. For the full story, go here.

This action comes on the heels of Scruggs' earlier foray into cartooning.

Classy as always, Dickie.

The Fifth Circuit gets it right - PointOfLaw Forum

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned the district court's determination last year that flood exclusions in the homeowners policies of various insurers were ambiguous and unenforceable in relation to New Orleans canal breaches.

The case is called In Re Katrina Canal Breaches Litigation, and one astute commentator, Randy Maniloff, had labeled the underlying decision by Judge Stanwood Duval In Re Breach of Common Sense. Judge Duval's thinking was that the standard flood exclusions in most policies did not specifically refer to the type of flooding that occurs because of man's negligence in designing levees that crumble. He did acknowledge that they would exclude traditional "natural" flooding.

However, as I point out in a post today at my Insurance Coverage Law Blog (where a pdf of the appellate court's decision is available), the Fifth Circuit sliced right through this tortured reasoning, and said that human negligence was not really a cause of the flooding at all, in the sense that word is understood in analysis of first-party property insurance losses. The Fifth Circuit also said that once this type of negligence analysis gets started it has no logical end: due to extent of human flood control measures such as dams and levees, many if not most floods can be said to involve the human hand. This is an important decision that is in keeping with the interpretation of flood exclusions by the overwhelming majority of courts that have considered this policy language.

Criminal contempt prosecution of Dickie Scruggs - PointOfLaw Forum

Two days after a U.S. Attorney declined his request to prosecute attorney Dickie Scruggs for criminal contempt, federal judge William Acker on Friday appointed two Birmingham attorneys as special prosecutors. In a June order, Acker had said he would do just that if U.S. Attorney Alice Martin of Alabama declined to take the case against Scruggs, of tobacco and Hurricane Katrina insurance litigation fame.

The criminal contempt prosecution is an offshoot of Katrina litigation. Two sisters, Cori and Kerri Rigsby, worked for E.A. Renfroe, a State Farm contractor, and took documents they said showed the insurer was engaging in bad faith adjusting of Katrina claims. The Rigsby sisters then gave the documents -- some 15,000 pages -- to Scruggs and went to work for him at $150,000 a year each. Renfroe sued them for alleged breach of their confidentiality contracts, and Judge Acker entered an injunction in December requiring Scruggs to return the documents to counsel for Renfroe. Instead of doing this, just hours after the injunction was entered Scruggs called Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, who already had copies of the documents, and sent them to Hood rather than to Renfroe's attorneys. The apparent objective? To make sure State Farm was kept guessing about the documents' contents during a period where Scruggs, Hood and State Farm were involved in intense negotiations over large-scale settlements of insurance claims and litigation, and where both Scruggs and Hood mounted highly effective media campaigns to put State Farm in the worst possible public light and pressure the insurer. In the June order, Acker found that Scruggs willfully defied the injunction and referred Scruggs to Martin for prosecution of criminal contempt. If you care to know more, I've written lengthy posts here and here about this issue, with links to the pdfs of Judge Acker's orders.

Zach Scruggs, Dickie Scruggs' son and law partner, has tried to spin Martin's declination as equivalent to a finding that Scruggs did nothing wrong. Martin, however, in a letter to Judge Acker, did not give a reason why she declined.

National Flood Insurance Program - PointOfLaw Forum

If you are keeping a list of national disgraces, your list is incomplete unless it includes the federal National Flood Insurance Program. The NFIP is set up and run in a way no state insurance commissioner would allow a real insurance company to be run: for example, the NFIP does not even go through the motions of capitalizing itself with reserves to meet anything other than an average year of losses. These chickens came home to roost when Hurricane Katrina hit, leaving the NFIP some $20 billion in debt to the Treasury, and since it is run as a political program rather than a true insurance program, it cannot raise premium rates to pay this money back or even build sufficient reserves for the next big disaster. Congress is currently considering some kind of fix to this broken system, and here is a report by the Congressional Research Service on proposed measures to make the NFIP more sound. It should be remembered the NFIP exists in the first place because homeowners policies sold by private insurers exclude flood damage from coverage, and the reason this coverage is excluded is that it creates potentially massive uncapitalized losses that can bankrupt an insurer, and when losses exceed reserves, the state regulators show up to padlock the doors. So when the federal government created the NFIP in 1968, it knew what it was getting into, but has often ignored economic reality.

The current proposals in the U.S. House include allowing the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which oversees the NFIP, to charge actuarially sound premiums for businesses and for second homes. However, the proposals do not include allowing the NFIP to charge real rates for primary residences. The proposals also include dramatically raising the penalty for mortgage lenders that fail to require flood insurance in high-risk areas. There are some other good ideas: allowing the NFIP to sell new lines of insurance, such as business interruption coverage, is a step in the right direction. But the proposals don't address what to do about the $20 billion the NFIP owes the Treasury -- there does not appear to be any option other than to forgive the debt, because raising premiums to cover the shortfall is politically unpalatable. One depressing thing about the report is the implicit admission that the incentive to buy flood insurance is frequently minimal, given that the report acknowledges that if people don't buy flood policies, they often will be "insured" directly from the Treasury anyway through disaster relief. Here is a post I wrote with further discussion of the report, and here is a past post I wrote on a related problem -- why people disregard flood warnings and the need to buy flood insurance.

Hurricane Katrina litigation update - PointOfLaw Forum

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.

Guest blogging - PointOfLaw Forum

I'm reminded that I overlooked an important detail yesterday: to mention who I am and why you suddenly see a new name posting in this space. I am an insurance law litigator at the Dunn Carney firm in Portland, Oregon, and I am guest blogging for Walter Olson this week. Frequent readers may have seen Walter and Ted link to my posts at my own blog, Insurance Coverage Law Blog, where I have been neck-deep in analyzing Hurricane Katrina insurance litigation for many months. Now, I have been a blog reader myself for a long time, much longer than the 18 months I've been blogging, and I know that regular readers of a site usually are ambivalent about guest bloggers -- blogging is pretty idiosyncratic and you can't just plug in someone who is equivalent, especially to someone the caliber of Walter. So instead of trying to be Walter I will just be myself, while attempting to uphold the high standards of Walter and Ted.

Breach of common sense - PointOfLaw Forum

When it was handed down late last year, the decision by federal Judge Stanwood Duval in In re Katrina Canal Breaches Consolidated Litigation was widely greeted with amazement. Judge Duval declared the flood exclusions in a number of insurers' policies ambiguous (and therefore not enforceable) because, he said, they did not clearly exclude flooding from man-made sources like New Orleans' canals, as opposed to floods that are "natural occurrences." Never mind that what caused the New Orleans canal breaches was a natural occurrence called Hurricane Katrina. Randy Maniloff has written an analysis of judicial restructuring of contracts that focuses on the case, which he renames "In re: Breach of Common Sense." Interestingly, he notes that in a prior case with lower stakes, Judge Duval appeared to come out on the other side of the question. See prior posts by Ted Frank on this case here and here.

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