Ask a question, get an answer. A few days ago, I asked in this post where Jim Hood’s threatened lawsuit against State Farm was. Now I have the answer. Right here in this pdf of the complaint he filed yesterday in Mississippi state court. (I thank the AG’s office for treating me like real media and sending me a copy of the complaint in response to my request, very kind of you). As you may be aware, I’m just a wee bit skeptical this lawsuit has much of a future, it’s kind of like the geeky guy with glasses and a pocket protector in a horror movie, you have a gut feeling he’s not going to be left standing when the credits roll. But who knows? I could be wrong.
The lawsuit alleges that State Farm breached an agreement with Hood whereby he dismissed his prior lawsuit against State Farm over Katrina claims handling practices. This was part of a deal with the Scruggs Katrina Group in which State Farm was to seek certification of a class of some 36,000 policyholders, and settle the class action by setting up a new claims adjudication process that would reexamine the claims of people who had not sued State Farm. Hood gave his blessing to the agreement, but it went only as far as the bench of Judge L.T. Senter Jr., who said the proposed class action did not meet the requirements of the Federal Rules, and because he had concerns over fairness of the process State Farm was to create.
Here’s an Associated Press story by Holbrook Mohr about Hood’s press conference yesterday announcing the filing of the lawsuit. Here’s from the story about what Hood had to say:
During a news conference Monday, Hood said the new lawsuit should help thousands of Gulf Coast policyholders, many of whom he says are still living in government-issued trailers because of State Farm’s refusal to pay claims.
"They ought to be ashamed of treating their policyholders like this," he said.
And here is State Farm’s response:
State Farm spokesman Mike Fernandez said Hood’s lawsuit suggests he is "more interested in making headlines in an election year than in making headway for the people of Mississippi."
"You have to wonder," Fernandez said in a written statement, "what would motivate Attorney General Hood to disrupt an agreement that mirrors the one he was ‘happy to announce’ on Jan. 23 and asked other insurers to emulate as ‘a step to recovery’ two days later?"
The reference to disrupting an agreement is this: after the class action fell apart, State Farm made a deal with Mississippi Insurance Commissioner George Dale to reopen the 36,000 claims, but it lacks the court oversight of the proposed class action. Like some others, notably the Scruggs Katrina Group, Hood believes the Dale deal is a poor substitute for the original, kind of like the difference between Elvis and an Elvis impersonator.
Here is an additional story about developments from John O’Brien of Legal Newsline, containing a quote from me. As I’ve said before, it would appear to me State Farm’s defense will be that its performance of the agreement was made impossible by the ruling of a federal court judge, an excuse that would seem to carry a lot of weight.