Judge Bars Mississippi Law Group from Katrina-related State Farm Case

April 18, 2008

A group of attorneys once affiliated with Mississippi tort lawyer Richard “Dickie” Scruggs was disqualified Wednesday from a case that accuses an insurance company of racketeering in its handling of policyholder claims after Hurricane Katrina.

The Katrina Litigation Group’s team of lawyers were barred earlier this month from representing more than 100 plaintiffs in lawsuits against State Farm Fire and Casualty Co.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge William Barbour Jr. in Jackson disqualified the same attorneys from representing an additional 22 plaintiffs in the racketeering lawsuit against State Farm.

Barbour’s ruling mirrors a decision earlier this month by U.S. District Judge L.T. Senter Jr., who cited ethical breaches by Scruggs and his former associates as the reason for their disqualification.

Senter said there was no legitimate reason for Scruggs to hire two sisters as paid consultants after they fed him reams of internal State Farm claims records, which they secretly copied while they were helping the insurer adjust claims after the August 2005 hurricane.

Scruggs, a well-known attorney, withdrew from the racketeering case after he was charged in November with conspiring to bribe a state judge. Scruggs, his son and three others have since pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the case.

State Farm spokesman Fraser Engerman said the company is pleased with Barbour’s ruling.

“We also maintain this lawsuit is meritless and based on wild allegations concocted by plaintiffs lawyers,” he added.

Don Barrett, lead lawyer for the Katrina Litigation Group, didn’t immediately respond to a call for comment Wednesday evening.

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