I’m not sure why this story from the Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Mississippi is coming out now, after this topic has been talked up for the past 18 months. The story discusses some e-mails between folks at an engineering firm employed by State Farm to examine and analyze Katrina damage in Mississippi. In one of them, a guy with the firm questions the ethics of State Farm if the insurer was pressuring them to change engineers’ reports. Here’s a pdf of the e-mails, followed by the original report and a second amended report. The reports have been known about for some time, and are mentioned prominently in the complaint in McIntosh v. State Farm, which was filed last year. Here’s a pdf of the McIntosh complaint. Perhaps the e-mails were produced recently in discovery, but the pdf of them doesn’t show a Bates stamp — the number code put on most records produced in discovery to help identify individual documents.
One of the things that strikes me about these e-mails is the man complaining about State Farm’s ethics, Randy Down, did not read a prior e-mail from his boss very well. The first e-mail mentioned a claims supervisor with State Farm, identified her as Lecky, Ms. King and she, and Down’s e-mail starts off wondering whether Lecky is a man or a woman. I hope that’s not indicative of the care that went into the firm’s engineer reports. Here’s a second, similar story from Mike Kunzelman of the Associated Press, in which Down said he didn’t have any first-hand knowledge of what he was talking about, and in any event wasn’t involved in working on Katrina claims. The AP story quotes Zach Scruggs, and the e-mails would appear to have been produced in the McIntosh case, where the Scruggses are the plaintiffs’ lawyers. So I’m not sure why the story in the Jackson newspaper quotes a Florida lawyer unconnected with the McIntosh case instead of Zach Scruggs. Perhaps he wasn’t available.
You know, I read the reports and I recommend you read them too. I don’t see a particular problem with ordering the second report, when the first one attributed all damage to the McIntosh home to wind. It was obvious — because the home was still standing and there were water marks on the walls — that flood waters had caused much of the damage. Seems like a bit of an oversight not to mention the flood damage as a cause in the first report, kind of like wondering if Ms. King is a man or a woman. The conclusion of the second report was that both wind and water caused the damage, not that only flooding caused damage, so it doesn’t appear to me the second report is all that problematic. The McIntosh complaint says that State Farm paid the McIntoshes about $36,000 for wind damage to the home.
UPDATE: I fixed a couple typos in this post, that’s what happens when you blog with a 3-year-old on your lap eating cereal.