State Farm demands statement sent to Scruggs

John O'Brien Jan. 8, 2008, 2:10pm


GULFPORT, Miss. - Claiming that an attorney for the former Scruggs Katrina Group won't oblige, State Farm Insurance Cos. filed an emergency motion Monday to obtain information provided from an engineer to indicted trial lawyer Richard "Dickie" Scruggs.

State Farm filed the emergency motion because Brian Ford, a former engineer at Forensic Analysis and Engineering Co. who performed property damage assessments for State Farm after Hurricane Katrina, is scheduled to be deposed Friday.

Ford performed the analysis on the home of Thomas and Pamela McIntosh, whose case against State Farm has become one of the most followed.

"Mr. Ford, through his attorney, has given authorization to Plaintiffs' counsel, Derek Wyatt, to produce to State Farm the statement taken by Mr. (Darren) Versiga," the memorandum says.

"Thus, State Farm has the same right to Mr. Ford's statement as does Mr. Ford. State Farm has requested the statement taken by Mr. Versiga several times from Plaintiffs' counsel, Derek Wyatt, and as recently as Jan. 2.

"And as recently as this afternoon... Mr. Wyatt, rather than producing the statement, asks State Farm to look elsewhere."

In the McIntosh case, the plaintiffs allege that Ford's original analysis of their home concluded a high percentage of the damage was caused by wind (covered by their State Farm policy) and not by water (covered by a federal program).

The plaintiffs also claim Forensic office manager Nellie Williams told other employees that State Farm would prefer assessments that show damage caused by water. State Farm rejected Ford's original report.

The SKG obtained her hard drive through a subpoena and found an instant message that said, "State Farm would prefer that all reports make water the cause of destruction (then they don't have to pay) - they have been returning our wind cause reports and demanding another inspection as they don't agree with our findings."

State Farm claims Scruggs, now facing federal charges that he attempted to bribe a state judge in a dispute over $26.5 million in attorneys fees, offered Ford indemnity, a $10,000 monthly retainer and a percentage of each settlement work for the SKG to become a "fact witness" and "consultant" on a case.

Ford's statement in question was given in May 2006 to Versiga, who was to pass it on to Scruggs "to see if there was a reason to meet," Ford said.

In an October deposition, Ford said he had no objection to giving the statement to State Farm. Ford said it is a taped summary of his activities after Katrina.

One of the exhibits offered is an e-mail exchange from Monday between State Farm attorney Dan Webb and Wyatt, of Nutt & McAlister. That firm, the Barrett Law Office and The Lovelace Law Firm took over all SKG suits after Scruggs dropped out and renamed themselves the Katrina Litigation Group.

When asked for the Ford statement, Wyatt requested that "before we go foraging please advise if you have sought or obtained it from Darren, Brian, or Brian's counsel, Balch & Bingham."

Ford had sent permission to State Farm five days earlier. State Farm wants all KLG attorneys disqualified from the case because they feel Scruggs' job offer to Ford constituted bribery, and they are all accessories. The trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 25.

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