Scruggs Nation, Day 36: the Kerri Rigsby deposition

The November 20, 2007 deposition of Kerry Rigsby in the McIntosh v. State Farm case makes for some really interesting reading.  Here’s a pdf of the deposition so you can see for yourself.  

Highlights of the deposition are listed below. 

* Check out this exchange on page 15.

Q: He [Dickie Scruggs] was going to give you advice on what to do with the documents you had stolen?

 A: Yes.

Q: And by then you had stolen what kind of documents from State Farm?

A:  In February of ’06, I had obtained the McIntosh report and some other documents.  I can’t recall the specifics.  I believe it was some protocol that had been issued through State Farm, possibly e-mails that I had received, directives.

This is a somewhat more direct variation of the "Was it raining or sunny when you killed your parents with an ax"  question every deponent is warned about.  I may incorporate this question and answer into my deposition prep as an example — "if someone asks you if you hired a lawyer to tell you what to do with stolen documents, what are you going to say?" 

* Note that on page 2 of the deposition, Sid Backstrom of the Scruggs Law Firm (now under indictment in the alleged bribery case) says he is there representing the plaintiffs, the McIntoshes.  Another lawyer from another firm was defending Rigsby’s deposition.  But when the questioning turned to whether Rigsby used her laptop to access State Farm claims files while meeting with Dickie Scruggs in a trailer (see pages 24-36), Backstrom stepped in and instructed her not to answer on grounds of attorney-client privilege. (See also around pages 180-190 for more on the assertion of attorney-client privilege).

The attorney conducting the questioning appears to have handled this with a far more even temper than I would have displayed under the same circumstances.  The attorney-client privilege applies to communications, including non-verbal acts intended as communications, such as nodding your head, giving your lawyer the thumbs-up, and the like.  The fact that your lawyer told you to drive down to Wendy’s to pick up a large fries and a side salad does not mean that the fact that you traveled from the lawyer’s office to Wendy’s is protected from disclosure, particularly if it becomes relevant in a lawsuit whether it was you behind the wheel of a car that sideswiped 15 parked cars along the route.  Driving your car is not communications.  Neither is using a laptop to access claims files, even if it was done from your lawyer’s trailer and at his instruction, especially when the act of logging onto a password protected computer system creates a record accessible to parties outside the attorney-client relationship, thereby waiving any expectation of secrecy in the act, if not in the communications themselves.  

Note that starting on page 36, her attorneys let her answer questions about which documents she gave to Scruggs and when.  It was only what happened in the trailer — from the questions, it appears State Farm believes Scruggs may have plugged a USB drive or other form of memory device into the computer to store the accessed information — that Backstrom objected to. 

* Dickie Scruggs provided three different law firms, in addition to his own representation and that of the now Scruggs(less) Katrina Group, to represent Kerri and Cori Rigsby. (Page 42).

* She says that Scruggs never had verbally agreed to indemnify her for any damages that she might be assessed in the Renfroe v. Rigsby case: "I just believe he will take care of it, but I don’t know that for a fact." (Page 45).  This answer, to me, is somewhat different from the answer provided to Judge Acker’s query about when Scruggs entered into an indemnity agreement with the Rigsby sisters.  See the answer here, and compare for yourself.   

* From the questions on pages 49-50, one can infer that State Farm believes that either Kerri or Cori Rigsby told supervisors she thought someone in the office was working for Scruggs as a mole and she couldn’t believe it, and that she hated Scruggs.  The questions and answers on page 51-52 show that Kerri Rigsby’s mother knew Scruggs and was recommending in the fall of 2005 that she and Cori should go see him to show him claims documents they had already taken.

* She has no career plans for after the consulting contract with the Scruggs Katrina Group is done. Q: "You certainly won’t go back to insurance adjusting, will you?" A: "No. I don’t believe I will."  (Page 53). We know from other information, as discussed in a previous post (see the second item), that the renamed Katrina Litigation Group has stopped paying the sisters, although this does not mean that Dickie Scruggs himself has stopped paying them. 

* She says that, on pages 64-67, while still working for Renfroe, it is "probable" she lied in every one of the Katrina mediations she attended, including after she had formed an attorney-client relationship with Scruggs. (Apparently the allegedly probable lies were in favor of State Farm). 

* She has no information that State Farm shredded any documents responsive to grand jury subpoenas and says it is customary in claims operations to shred documents that are not necessary (page 70).  She has no information that specific State Farm employees ever shredded any documents. (same page).

* See beginning on page 100 or so for information about the "data dump" weekend. Although the testimony is that the sisters pulled documents using engineering report rosters of claims, State Farm, in other pleadings on file in the McIntosh case, has  provided documentation from computer records that the files were accessed in order of the names as they appeared in the McFarland mass complaint (the McFarland cases are those that were part of the big settlement in January 2007 of 640 SKG cases against State Farm).

* Pages 142-143 relate what sounds like a pretty bizarre incident of investigators from the state Attorney General’s office photographing the license plates of State Farm employees who were attending a meeting called to talk about the bad press State Farm was receiving.  Apparently the sisters had told Dickie Scruggs of the meeting, and he told the AG’s office.

* See starting on page 198 for a description of some Inspector Clouseau-like tape recording of one of the Rigsby sisters’ bosses.

*  She testified that, for a brief time, she was employed both by Renfroe and the Scruggs Katrina Group. (See page 247).

Remarkable stuff.  There’s more in there, of course.  Read it yourself and see what you think.

 

11 Comments

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11 Responses to Scruggs Nation, Day 36: the Kerri Rigsby deposition

  1. Tim

    I just have a hard time believing that any attorney could possible believe it was proper to use the Rigsby sisters in this manner and to access files under the circumstances described in this deposition.

  2. iwannaknow

    I read the entirety of Kerri and Cori. I thought the attorney questioning them was reading mostly from an outline, asking mostly “softball” questions, and did a rather poor job of following up on answers. That said, I found for the most part the sisters were intelligent and credible. The part that was most interesting was Scruggs’ “second representation” which began in April. It is obvious this was the whistleblower lawsuit which was still under seal (and, I believe not even served on State Farm at that point), thus could not be discussed openly. Still, enough came out to confirm that Scruggs began representing the sisters (along with a second out-of-state firm) with regard to that whistleblower suit in April and that the sisters did their data dump in June. Somehow the sisters knew to make 3 copies of the documents they stole – one for the FBI, one for the Mississippi AG, and one which they turned over to Dickie. Dickie also arranged for the FBI and AG to pick up their copies on the day the data dump was completed. This is similar to what was done in tobacco. Cori claims the data dump was solely her idea. It seems a more credible explanation is Scruggs was aware of the plan to “dump” the Renfroe documents, had discussed with the sisters what to copy and how many copies to make, and had made prior arrangements with the FBI and AG to pick those up. There is a “crime-fraud” exception to the attorney-client privilege.

  3. David Rossmiller

    Iwannaknow, I have yet to read all of the Rigsby depositions, although I have them, but in this deposition, my conclusion is to the contrary. I thought the attorney did a pretty good job of questioning, for a contentious deposition like this, it’s a remarkably clear record with clear short questions and clear short answers. I am a fan of scripting questions myself, although one has to have leeway to diverge when the answers call for it. The bigger problem in this deposition was the assertion of privilege in dubious circumstances and the witnesses’ insistence that she couldn’t remember these key events in her life.

  4. Mississippian

    thanks again, David, for the incredible coverage, explanation, and details. You make it easy for us non-lawyers to understand! Please keep it up!

  5. MS Smitty

    After the trucks showed up that Monday morning — to cart away two of the exactly three sets of illegal copies made of SF documents — the last set is spirited off to a safe house of a friend because someone in Hood’s office had alerted Cori Rigsby that they (the sisters) may be under surveillance. (pgs. 137-138).
    But, of course, our AG didn’t know that anything unlawful was taking place. No, not at all.

  6. Sam

    I came across your blog a couple weeks ago, and have spent the little spare time I have reading voraciously…Thanks for the great coverage and explanations. I have to agree with you that the questions were good given the contentious conditions. I did not need a roadmap to see where this was going.

  7. yasmin

    If you look at Exhibit A to the McFarland Complaint, you will see a list of Dickie Scrugg’s clients. It is my understanding that the State Farm IT records show when the Sisters accessed the State Farm computer on the “data dump weekend” and remarkably the Sisters accessed claim files in almost the exact same order as Scrugg’s client list. It is hard for me to believe the Sisters’ testimony that it was their idea to download the confidential documents. Their credibility is worthless at this point. If I were them, I would hire a new lawyer and hope they don’t get a heavy sentence for perjury and providing false information to state and federal authorities. Just think, the State of Mississippi and now the federal government have spent an incredulous amount of money investigating State Farm and other insurance companies on the allegations of the Sisters. I think there will be mud on the faces of many when this is all over!

  8. m.williams

    Ms.Smitty: nice and amusing description of the scene – changing terms such as discovery as in “the mink coat fell off the truck.”
    Maybe it’s not obvious but the acts that Moore and Scruggs (and the so-called Vangard) did in Mississippi’s Ex Rel. Moore, come to mind – the trucks, the sets of copies – it’s the same process.
    I guess, Mississippi is a State that has an exception to matters violative of Court Orders, e.g., “TRO’s”, etc. issued
    from another State. Is that true?
    IWANNAKNOW comes to one conclusion along those lines. Responding to the text”, “Dickie arranged for the FBI and AG [that would be Mississippi’s, right?], to pick up their copies…This is similar to what was done in tobacco.” Not exactly. First, there wasn’t any FBI on the trail. Second, Dickie just flew into another jurisdiction and stole documents. Years after, it was clear that he made box-loads of copies.
    My mind sends this in a different direction -somewhere between an analogue for discovery and an idiomatic use of discovery.
    It’s interesting that Hood has the identical pretense. And the context with which Mike Moore’s Agency/Private Firm use of “pick up’s” was most apparent. A distinction or a difference?
    What is in this word “stolen”. [Ok. I’m stupid]. But a thing isn’t stolen if it’s returned (using logic and reason and timeliness). The manager of these documents is like a publisher’s distribution house – it doesn’t do anything but wrap and send.
    So, if you’re looking for “the documents”, as was the case in Mississippi, Ex Rel, they’re long gone…but privilege can always be asserted, even if it sounds silly.
    Hood violates an Order, but he’s Special. His promoter, Scruggs, managed the identical turn-over for Moore.
    Of course, I think Special Master’s usually get the job to rifle through documents that might be privileged. Also, I believe that the exception to attorney client privlege most frequently used is “on going fraud”, I could be really wrong there.
    So what if a State Supreme Court in another State upholds the lower Court’s Order? It was a s____ order. And Hood, like Moore doesn’t like it.
    In the tobacco documents, you have to think that Far Side ruled. The violation of an Order was firm. And believe me, if the DOJ, which did try, couldn’t move the State Judge off his dime for a wee little chat, how in heaven’ts name could Moore?
    And how is this not a continuation of what – in law schools, most likely, you’re going to have to approve of all this as good law? You’re repeating the same thing. Is there a difference which exists between creating an exception to a rule because a cause is good?
    I can’t say that the Rigsbys have stolen anything, but I’m sure Scruggs happily accepts that notion. On one hand, I view Scruggs as a “cat-bird lawyer” who works in the dark, and thinks there is a blind spot where his cause celebre is more important than anything.
    In tobacco, Scruggs had information and immediately violated the terms set down for illegal discovery of documents. He also knew or should have known (he was told often enough) that he was violating another State Order. Is Hood different?
    flew to another jurisdictional State, and made a pick-up.
    Scruggs distributed massive information as copies in at least 20 different jurisdictions involving thousands of lawyers. Isn’t Hood mastering the Moore theory of discovery?

  9. Alton

    Not sure why an issue exists with the word “stolen” in this context, if by “stolen” we mean: taking something that does not belong to you without the owner’s permission.

  10. confused

    I’m sure I’m just missing something here, but this deposition seems to indicate that the US Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi got one of the sets of copies of the data dump documents at the same time Hood got them. Are those the same documents that Judge Acker ordered Scruggs and the sisters to return? Did the US Attorney get them in connection with the qui tam action?

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