One of the more interesting documents I have seen in Katrina litigation is the notes of Brian Ford, who was an engineer with Forensic Analysis and Engineering Corp., and who was involved in investigating hurricane damage for reports that would be used by State Farm.
If you don’t remember Ford, he was at the center of a controversy about a report he submitted to State Farm saying the damage to the Thomas McIntosh home in Mississippi was caused primarily by wind. State Farm rejected the report as not based on the available evidence, and Ford was removed from State Farm work by Forensic. Another engineer with Forensic did another report and came to the conclusion the damage was due to flood. You can read more about this in this post I wrote back in April. In the post, click on the link regarding e-mails, and you can see the reports for yourself.
Ford left Forensic rather than accept being assigned to a marketing job with the company — see this transcript of the deposition of his boss, 13th page. Now, the notes I am talking about are not notes connected with Ford’s with Forensic. Far from it. They are some very meticulous notes Ford took after the left Forensic and was being courted as a consultant to the Scruggs Katrina Group. In these notes, he recounts conversations he had with Dickie Scruggs, other attorneys in the SKG, and with Sen. Trent Lott, although in that case it appeared Lott did almost all the talking.
Here is a copy of his notes, more or less in their entirety, although there appear to be some redactions here and there. And here is something else that will be of help, the supplemental index to State Farm briefing filed in November with the Fifth Circuit seeking a writ of mandamus from the U.S. Fifth Circuit Fifth Circuit — in effect a request to overturn Judge L.T. Senter’s earlier decision not to grant State Farm’s motion to disqualify Dickie Scruggs from Katrina litigation for alleged ethical breaches relating to the conduct of those cases. The Fifth Circuit, by the way, denied the writ November 19. And I know what some of you are thinking — are they going to renew the motion to disqualify in light of Scruggs’ indictment? The conduct alleged in the indictment, however, isn’t directly related to Katrina litigation, it came in a breach of contract case between lawyers over how to divvy up Katrina attorney fees.
Ford’s notes show that the Scruggs Katrina Group was interested in hiring him as a consultant as well as using him as a fact witness. Ford was asking for a salary of $10,000 a month, and, if you look at page SA-10 of the supplemental index above, you can see that in an e-mail to the Scruggs Law Firm, Ford also asked for a percentage of the settlement amounts of SKG cases. The excerpts of Ford’s deposition provided with the supplemental index show the Scruggs Katrina Group never did hire him, and page 13 of the notes contains this question: "Why did the full court press for my services suddenly stop?" Just a guess on my part, but maybe it had something to do with Ford inviting himself into Scruggs’ attorney fees — as alleged in the Jones v. Scruggs lawsuit that was the backdrop for the alleged Scruggs’ judicial bribery conspiracy, there are some who say Scruggs is pretty grabby when it comes to fees — kind of like what his is his and what is yours is his too.
In State Farm’s reply brief in the mandamus proceedings before the Fifth Circuit, State Farm cited the information in these notes and Ford’s deposition as another example of what it calls Scruggs’ unethical conduct in Katrina cases — Ford was a material witness to the damage in one of the pre-eminent Katrina cases, McIntosh v. State Farm, yet Scruggs worked closely with him for many months, although he apparently never did hire him or pay him for the work, judging by these materials.
I felt sorry for Ford that he appears to have gotten stuck on the phone with Trent Lott while Lott launched into his usual stem-winder speech about how State Farm was picking on him, he was ashamed of his earlier slavishness to insurance companies, going to right wrongs, give up getting his own dough to punish State Farm, etc., etc. This can be found on page 7 of the notes. Interestingly, the notes say that Lott was in communication with Kerri Rigsby, who as you remember is one of the sisters who copied numerous State Farm claims files from their employer, E.A. Renfroe, and gave them to Scruggs.
Also interestingly, the notes say Lott called Ed Rust, State Farm CEO, to outline a three-part program that he, as chair of the Senate Insurance Committee, would be in a position to "help." I note that not only did Sen. Lott not "forgo his $ to get S.F.," as the notes say, but he in fact settled his own lawsuit against the company and will leave office at the end of this year without getting one bit of his insurance agenda enacted.
Much of the Ford notes concerns Katrina litigation insider type stuff, and you have to know the players to appreciate what is going on. But if you are familiar with the names, you will no doubt have an enjoyable time paging through these notes.