Renfroe’s deposition in the Rigsby Whistleblower case-Interesting look into their thoughts on the case

You never know what your going to run across on different claim issues we like to follow in the claims industry. Today was one of those days that a follow up on the Renfroe / Rigsby whistleblower case lead me in a direction not expected on a Scruggs firm link to a deposition given by Jana Renfroe of the EA Renfroe firm which was given to the Rigsby attorney in March of 2007. It was hours worth of interesting reading not just from a human interest story in this major case with the players involved but from a management perspective which I felt could be a very useful training tool  as many issues came up in the form of questions that managers and owners of adjusting firms need to have a good handle on regarding employment, performance records they maintain on personnel, training records, all communications, and in maintaining all  deployment records with carriers.

I post about this deposition as it provides very useful and interesting insights into things claim managers need to be prepared to provide deposition testimony about should the need ever arise as has often happened in the aftermath of Katrina. The questions asked in the deposition of the EA Renfroe owners are things all managers should be prepared to answer should they be deposed on similar cases. The purpose of this particular deposition was made clear in the statements by the Renfroe’s attorney to Mr Hawley, the attorney representing the the Rigsbys. The deposition was taken in March of 2007 regarding the breach of contract allegations on the Renfroe / Rigsby contract. When Attorney Hawley (Rigsbys attorney) tried to bring in the issues of the wind vs water claim calls, objections were raised. I was surprised the attorney even tried to broach those topics with Mrs Renfroe as she testified in her deposition she was not an adjuster but had traveled with husband Gene in their early years prior to having children. I was most impressed with the fact that she had obtained her MBA and I  thought she made a credible witness on her own behalf  in the deposition as I read it.( I have to admit it would have been very interesting watch in person after doing kinesic interview technique training in my early years as an adjuster). I was a bit surprised at her lack of knowledge regarding more particulars on contacts at the carrier level and IDL certification specifics as the owner of the firm but her role was more financial and personnel related. I very much liked comments she made in her deposition regarding their desire to be “partners” with their independents and their wish that the Rigsbys had notified them of their concerns with what the Rigsbys felt were “irregularities” so they could have had the opportunity to investigate their allegations as they would with other concerns raised with carrier staff or independent personnel they deploy.

I have  wondered what the Renfroe’s position was on the Rigsby whistleblower case as I’m sure many of you have (they are owners of EA Renfroe who the Rigsbys worked for).

Today’s google alert sent an interesting link to this information on the
Scrugg’s site and I happened to click onto the link they had to Jana Renfroe’s
deposition taken in March 2007. It took hours to read to comprehend everything
but was a good learning tool as to things an adjusting firm or manager should
think about regarding contracts, regarding having a 1-800 hotline established
for your adjusters to report suspected fraud or wrong doing, and to consider how
your firm is going to look when being deposed on training requirements your firm
has, documents you maintain to keep up with those training achievements,
deployment selections, and how you track performance evaluations for your
independents. Of much interest is the comment on the last page of the deposition
by Jana Renfroe on page 94 when asked what she thought of the allegations made
by the Rigsby’s and her indication that “she didn’t know what to believe”.  
I’ll outline other allegations. Note on about page 80 where she testifies in her
deposition that thus far the attorney fees on the case have been about half a
million dollars….unreal! Also interesting her testimony that there is not a
joint litigation effort between Renfroe and State Farm on these issues. I’d been
wondering about that. 

*********

Here’s the Scruggs webpage:

http://www.scruggskatrinagroup.com/state-farm-on-the-defensive/index.php

Note- that the link above also has links to the AOL subpeona’s for the
Rigsbys personal email accounts ( I bet they hate having those email addresses
published!) 
 

Here’s the link to the subpeona on the Rigsbys AOL email:(watch what you say
even on your personal email!)

XXXXXX-link discard 3/09- Scruggs site down since he went to prison and no longer works.

****************  

Link to Jana Renfroe’s deposition: (from above link)-link removed 3/09 as Scruggs site down

*****************
If you missed it, here was the original complaint against the Rigsbys by EA
Renfroe: (I’ll see if slabbed has this-the Scruggs site is down)

***********************
Here is some of the more interesting information summarized from the 94 pages of the
deposition (see numbers on bottom right of each page- each page has a number
(1-94) for whole page and each page of the transcript is like 4 pages reading
1-372 but I refer to the number 1-94 for the whole page in most cases.

It is very interesting reading this entire deposition to get a history on EA
Renfroe’s beginnings in the mid 90’s. Gene had been a long term adjuster/manager
with Crawford prior to opening their own firm in 94 or 95 in Atlanta. Many of
the early members and managers came from Crawford. Most impressive is that while
Jana has no adjusting background herself, she did travel with Gene prior to
having a child and later completed her degree as well as her MBA before they
opened EA Renfroe. The deposition is a who’s who of managers and “liasons” at
Renfroe and State Farm that they dealt with. These are some of the pages I
personally found most interesting, possibly given my State Farm background in
claims for 28 years to include catastrophe management:

 The first page of the deposition which was being taken by defendent Moran and Rigsby’s attorney, Mr
Hawley shows that Cori and Kerri as well as Gene Renfroe were present during Mrs
Renfroe’s deposition(thus the comment about kinesic interview observations). Note that the Renfroes’ attorney objected to any line of questioning during the deposition that could have been part of discovery on the
wind vs water issues and wanted the questions limited to questions about breach
of the employment contract so you’ll read many objections by the Renfroe’s
attorney during the course of the deposition.

Page 29 (pages 113-116)- How they hire- Ms Renfroe said they prefer offering employment to
retired military as a second career and other recruiting is done through word of
mouth via referrals from other adjusters. (Glad to see confirmed my assessment
that some of the major carrier independent players don’t solicit new employees
through advertisements but rely on their reputation thus many good adjusters are
left out of the mix leaving carriers with impression that there are no adjusters
available when a particular adjusting firm they use runs out of core players). On various other pages throughout the deposition they discuss their number of independents and state they originally had 100-150 and have grown to
about 1200. The testimony says they deactivate about 150 adjusters per year and
that over the course of time they have serviced State Farm claims since the mid
90’s they have had about 100 requests to deactivate an adjuster over performance
issues. Also somewhere in the report it indicates they sent about 300 adjusters
to Katrina and about 20 managers. I was surprised as I expected the numbers to
be much greater on the Katrina assignments.

Page 34 begins a history of their State Farm work and initial contacts with Dan
Kerrigan ( he used to handle all independent assignments). It is interesting
reading this section and seeing there isn’t more formal “courting” of this
client and that they deal with section managers and team managers on various
assignments with very little interaction as far as yearly meetings,etc…

Page 37- very interesting comments on Sales calls by Don Goodin of Renfroe for
non cat work in Atlanta, Chicago, and Arkansas where they can pick up non cat
assignments as being some of their only sales calls on the carrier.

Page 37- mentions some of the conventions they meet with carrier such as PLRB
and possibly windstorm conference,etc

Page 48- Comment that they sent about 300 adjusters to Katrina

Page 49- see their deployment criteria- primarily qualifications then seniority
then availability is the order they used

Page 52- Begins info on Rigsbys position as liasons on the State Farm Katrina
work. Also discusses beginning here the names of the State Farm section managers
and team managers involved.

Page 53- comment that they sent 20 or so liason managers were sent by Renfroe to
Katrina work for State Farm. Discusses who from Renfroe reported to Lecki King
(she is the one Scruggs group posted the photo of pleading the 5th during her depo on engineer firm questions)

Page 54- Starts discussing the employment contract Rigsbys signed with EA
Renfroe

Page 59- I found this strange- the Rigsbys attorney asking Jana Renfroe
adjustment questions on wind vs water when it is established somewhere in the
deposition that she had not been an adjuster yet he was trying to pin her down
on wind vs water coverage issues. She is not licensed adjuster and should not
have been making those coverage decisions anyway but the attorney didn’t seem to
be getting the point.

Page 62-63- See discussions on Code of Conduct report and what procedures they
had set up in their firm for adjusters such as Rigsby’s to report fraud or other
problems to the firm

Page 64- VIP- see reasons they are NOW setting up a 1-800 hotline they indicate
will be monitored by a 3rd party for adjusters to report wrongdoing to avoid any
further “excuses” by adjusters for not feeling comfortable to report wrong doing
by the carrier personnel or other independents

Page 65- Hawley wants to know how the Renfroe’s would have investigated the
allegations had the Rigsby’s ever reported it to them prior to reporting to
outsiders (note that in various places in the deposition they ask how they
handled investigations of performance issues of their independents or of a
carriers wrongdoing)

Page 71- A discussion of EA Renfroe’s connection with Haag Engineering (see
interesting comment on page 72 also alleging State Farm says they will use Haag
Engineering again)

Page 73- starts discussion of the “data dump” weekend and what knowledge Renfroe
had about it. Important note about what they didn’t know- all Rigsby would tell
Renfroe’s Don Goodin is that they couldn’t talk to them and that it wasn’t about
Renfroe but it was about what State Farm had done to them. This page also goes
on with the testimony about how Renfroe found out about the Rigsby’s from State
Farm but again were not told what they’d done but that they were being suspended
WITH PAY (my comment- unreal SF would pay them on daily management rate while
they were suspended but later in the testimony that say that one of the Rigsby’s
went out on stress leave and one said she terminated assignment so neither ended
up on the paid suspension apparently from this testimony in the depo of Jana
Renfroe)

Page 76- Says Cori called Mrs Renfroe in August to talk although they didn’t
complete the discussion as Mrs Renfroe ended the conversation at that time

Page 77- Says they didn’t know what was going on since Cori didn’t tell them and
State Farm Section mgr Dave Randall refused to tell them. They say it was when
their employees were first getting criminal investigation request for records
that they first started to have any idea what was going on yet they didn’t
pursue any additional facts from State Farm since Section Mgr Dave Randall told them he
couldnt tell them anything else other than that the Rigsby’s were to be
suspended.

Page 78- Renfroes’ first learn finally in August 06 (2 months after Rigsby’s
suspended) about the Sun Herald articles and about the 20/20 show as Rigsby’s
husband Paul Moran notified them of the articles ( Can you imagine the position
he must have been in? He is now divorced from Rigsby). Here she goes on to
explain in response to deposition question what rold Cori and Kerri played about
going to the attorney

Page 79-talks about the call from State Farm and the suspension issue again. Mrs Renfroe
comments she was “shocked and hurt” after watching the 20/20 program.

Page 80- Jana Renfroe admits it was “pretty quickly” after the 20/20 show that
SHE made the decision to sue the Rigsby’s “to defend our contracts and integrity
of our contracts”.. Interesting also is her comment that the Rigsby’s were “long
time trusted employees” (my comment-ouch – hmmmmmmmm what effect would that comment have on
future developments in the case?).

Page 81-Continues on page 81 about the Breach of the employment contract and Mrs
Renfroe’s belief the first breach occurred when the Rigsby’s didn’t come to Mr
and Mrs Renfroe to report the problem

Page 82- interesting questions and answers about the breach not involving fact
that they participated in criminal investigation- only the fact they never notified
them of the problem. Somewhere else in depo it says they wanted to be part of
the solution – not left out of the info until they went public.

Page 83- Rigsby’s attorney refers to State Farm as a “sacred cow”

Page 84- Jana refers to fact Rigsby’s had worked State Farm claim for 8 years and no prior
complaints and finding the alleged “irregularities” strange,etc

Page 85- In response to questions about what internal investigations they
conducted after they knew with other adjusters they say none because they didn’t
want to interfere with the ongoing criminal investigations

Page 86- Jana Renfroe says no one at Renfroe consulted with anyone one at State
Farm concerning filing the suit against Rigsby’s ( interesting as I would have
thought this had been discussed!)

Page 87….Ms Renefroe approximates current litigation on the Rigsby case now at
1/2 MILLION dollars…unbelievable!

Page 88- Jana Renfroe’s “absolutely not” comment about coordination or agreement
between Renfroe and State Farm attorney’s on this or any other litigation.

Page 89- She denies any knowledge other than what the Rigsby’s said in their
depos about the State Farm documents the Rigsbys refer to

Page 92- Hawley wants to know if Renfroe has lost any adjusters due to Rigsby
disclosures or due to the 20/20 show and Renfroe responds she doesn’t know ( my
own guess here is it would be hard to tell due to lack of storms since these
revelations and whistleblower case have been going on)

Page 93- remember the recent decision on the OK case involving SF and Renfroe?
Jana Renfroe indicates they had not even been following that case and were
surprised about the decision and also what the issues were on that case she
indicates were clothing issues with independents wearing SF clothes and
performance evaluation issues

Page 94- Very interesting closing answer by Jana Renfroe when asked if she
believe Cori and Kerri Rigsby and she answered “she didn’t know what to believe”

*******************
If I later find Gene Renfroe’s deposition posted or any of the depositions of
other Renfroe managers I’ll post them.

I hope others reading this learn as much as we did reading through this. Many assumptions I personally had such as State Farm and Renfroe possibly coordinating efforts, the when and where the Renfroe’s learned of the Rigsby’s actions, and the fact that the Renfroe’s didn’t know much more than the rest of the adjusting community about this whole whistleblower case until watching 20/20 sure were a surprise to read.

The outcome of these cases remains a mystery and a soap opera those in the claims community can’t help but follow since it is so very unusual for our industry to have such crazy actions going on. Hopefully, posting of depositions such as this will open many eyes that think the only thing to adjusting is a simple 3 day class. An adjuster and adjusting firm have serious problems and responsibilities to properly document claim files, thoroughly handle investigations, and properly document personnel deployments as well as very serious responsibilities to properly train those adjusters deployed to fulfill claim obligations to the policyholders who have paid dearly for the right to insurance protection during major disasters.

Update 3/22/09 – Since Scruggs went to prison, the Scruggs site was pulled down so the links that were in this post no longer work. I’ll see if Slabbed has a link to the deposition on their site.

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4 Responses to Renfroe’s deposition in the Rigsby Whistleblower case-Interesting look into their thoughts on the case

  1. […] Dimechimes wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerpt You never know what your going to run across on different claim issues we like to follow in the claims industry. Today was one of those days that a follow up on the Renfroe / Rigsby whistleblower case lead me in a direction not expected on a Scruggs firm link to a deposition given by Jana Renfroe of the EA Renfroe firm which was given to the Rigsby attorney in March of 2007. It was hours worth of interesting reading not just from a human interest story in this major case with the players involved but from a management perspective which I felt could be a very useful training tool  as many issues came up in the form of questions that managers and owners of adjusting firms need to have a good handle on regarding employment, performance records they maintain on personnel, training records, all communications, and in maintaining all  deployment […] […]

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