Transcript of the Scruggs Sentencing hearing and other news reactions

June 30, 2008


Numerous stories have come out since Friday’s sentencing of Dickie Scruggs. Below you will find links to some of the most interesting of the many articles written:

The Sun Herald has posted a complete copy of the Sentence Hearing Transcript here:

See AG Hood’s comments:

Here’s a photo of Dickie Scruggs and son Zach Scruggs (who will be sentenced this Wednesday) walking into the court house:

Here is a Clarion Ledger article quoting Attorney Jones who was involved in the suit with Mr Scruggs over the disputed attorney fees in the suit which was involved in the bribery charges:

I’d also check out for some of the best articles I’ve read including this one:

Full Five for Emotional Scruggs/ Hinds case-2nd bribery case mentioned in this article as well:

WSJ Law blog reports Scruggs nearly fainted and had to be seated during sentencing:


Scruggs Sentencing Scheduled for Friday 6/27/08 in Bribery Case

June 26, 2008

The eyes of many claims personnel are watching this week’s activity in the Scruggs bribery case since the charges stem from a dispute over attorney fees received on a settlement Scruggs reached with State Farm over Katrina claims. The bribe is alleged to have developed over a dispute Scruggs had on the division of the  attorney fees  between members of the Scruggs Katrina group in which Scruggs wanted the suit by Jone’s moved to arbitration for settlement and allegations of a bribe that Scruggs and other lawyers admit to participating in with hopes a judge  move the case to arbitration to settle the dispute.  A history of the case is contained in the Sentencing Memorandum and Scruggs Memorandum linked to below if you aren’t up to date on the history of these allegations.

Tomorrow is the sentencing date for Dickie Scruggs. There has been quite a bit of news this week regarding letters sent to the Judge asking for leniency for Scruggs. Here are links to quite a few news stories and blogs on the topic here, here, here, and here. ( Sun Herald, Ya’ll Politics, Folo, Rossmiller Blogs).

Since I began this blog this afternoon, FOLO is also reporting that Jone’s attorney, Grady Tollison, has received a subpeona for tomorrow’s hearing and quotes him as saying that actually the damage to Jone’s would have been based on a fee dispute of over 50 million (versus the 28 million discussed in the news on the dispute) in attorney fees due to settlements with carriers other than State Farm as well. Here is a link to that newest information: Click here and here in yet another Sun Herald article and a FOLO blog.

The Sun Herald has also published a link to the Sentencing Memorandum of Richard F. Scruggs as well as a Memorandum by the US Attorney’s office. Scrugg’s memorandum is a lengthy 32 pages going back through his childhood years, his military career which I’d previously wondered about, his law school days and his career. There is much written in his memorandum about his generosity as well as in letters submitted by his friends and associates in the letters they sent to the Judge. It is very disturbing to read of his wife’s illness and I’d imagine this is just a horrid time for her and their daughter.

 As great as his gifts and donations have been and as great as his achievements have been, it is hard to imagine leniency for him when you remember the pure hell the insurance industry has been put through and the unseemly things such as payment to the Rigsby’s, the trailer meetings, the pigs/lipstick jokes, the billboards in Illnois, the events with Hood and Lott, and other events that have been so very unprofessional in the insurance litigation, his blasting of insurance personnel photos and the blogs on his website prior to it coming down after the bribery events. Even had insurance company personnel made some incorrect settlement decisions on wind /water issues, I saw no need for the unprofessional public circus that was made of this litigation which resolved nothing for many of the cases that pend still today that are involved in this ongoing nightmare. I cannot even begin to imagine the nightmare it has been for the policyholders involved. This does not mean that I think coverage should have been provided where none existed (flood exclusions or absence of flood policy,etc). I just believe that these cases could have moved forward to resolution in some manner much more professionally. I for one am very happy to see the recent comments from the Judges asking all parties to keep their focus on that resolution long overdue.

Mr Scruggs is asking for sentencing at 30 months while the US Attorney is asking for the maximum guideline of 60 months. Their memorandum says in part that the Judge should consider the difference of the initial offer by the SKG for Jone’s share of attorney fees from the State Farm settlement at $1.2 (approx) vs the $5.3 million that Jone’s sought in his suit against Scruggs for an approx $4 million intended loss to Jones had their bribe been successful. See new info just posted above about Jone’s attorney who says the intended loss to Jones was much more due to settlements also reached with other carriers.

You can read the full contents of the US Attorney’s Sentencing Memorandum and Scrugg’s Memorandum via the links on this Sun Herald Article (see links to right near article title): Click here

It has been quite a while since I blogged regarding updates on the Scruggs cases but there have been significant numbers of actions going on involving the EA Renfroe, Rigsby,  and State Farm cases. Frankly, it is just more than one person could possibly keep up with by updates here although I regularly read them to keep up to date myself. I will shortly post some of the most important things that have developed from a claims management- claims adjuster standpoint to try to bring things more current on the blog. These developments include updates on all of the Rigsby depositions, discovery of computer records on the Rigsby computer, and much much more to include information that there was yet another hearing on the record production this afternoon in Judge Walker’s chambers.

 I remain hopeful that EA Renfroe is successful in the Rigsby/Renfroe case and am appalled at what the Rigsbys have put them through. This could have happened to any adjusting firm that had employed these folks and I think the adjusting community should be doing all they can to stand behind the EA Renfroe adjusting firm. Not many firms would have had the resources to fight this lengthy case and all they have endured as a result of the Rigsbys actions that could have cost them their adjusting firm (by carriers avoiding using them) and their resources. I do not personally know Gene or Jana Renfroe but they have earned my respect as I watch their handling of the highly unusual actions on this case. I have yet to read anything against their firm of any validity even mentioned by the Rigsbys so it is quite a shame that they have dragged them through years of litigation when the Rigsbys allegations have been directed to carrier activities versus adjusting firm directives. The Rigsbys were involved with this adjusting firm I believe eight years before their allegations. What a violation of the trust this firm placed in them to work as managers for them in the field where if any problems existed in the field, the Rigsby’s should have been the eyes and ears for them at the storm site and immediately reported any concerns to the independent firm THEY CHOSE to work for.

I will post the actual Scruggs sentence information as soon as the many news sources start updating this tomorrow. Backstrom (attorney in Scruggs office) is also scheduled for sentencing tomorrow and Scruggs son Zach is scheduled for July 2nd sentencing. News reports and the US Attorney memorandum linked to in the Sun Herald article are suggesting a 30 month sentence for Backstrom.

You can always find the newest court documents and discussions regularly posted at the following websites if you are interested in almost daily updates. These various websites have a wide range of views on the Rigsby/Scruggs/EA Renfroe/State Farm updates from the public, law blogs, concerned MS citizens upset about the slab cases, and insurance coverage law views which I find fascinating to understand all perspectives of this ongoing Katrina litigation:

State Farm’s Katrina response updates- click here

Insurance Coverage blog –                     click here

Ya’ll Politics blog                                –  click here

Folo- blog                                            – click here

Slabbed- blog                                       –click here

I mentioned in a recent blog that carriers are taking notice of the blogs and it’s becoming much more common for them to post on blog comments. Well this week, Judge Biggers also recognized the blogs allowing MS Attorney Tom Freeland who is an author on the FOLO blog (uses name NMC on the blog) to view the pre-sentencing letters along with the press who had also filed motions to view these letters. 

Independent adjusters and claim managers are watching these blogs as well as they are a frequent source of court documents we are also interested in viewing for accurate information on hot topics rather than just receiving bulletins with talking points which in the past used to be the only source of information we had on lawsuit files.

The post Katrina litigation has had a major impact on independent adjusters as carriers increased staff adjusters due to the negative implications the Rigsby actions as independent adjusters has created for all other independent adjusters who would never consider violating the code of conduct forms signed nor would they have taken carrier confidential documents. I think the majority would have followed carrier established procedures for reporting any allegations of wrongdoing on the part of other independents or staff adjusters instead of taking the route the Rigsbys chose to take. Their actions have cost untold numbers of independent adjusters claim assignments as carriers “staffed” up to avoid independent adjusters having access to their records as the Rigsbys did. How many independent (and staff) adjusters have been listed in suits and will suffer increased premiums on their errors and omissions coverage as a result of having to report these cases to E and O carriers. The ramifications of the Rigsby actions have been a detriment to the entire independent adjusting/insurance carrier relationships. What a shame. You need to be reading all of the things being filed to truly understand the details of what is being reported before making a decision about how you feel about this. I doubt we ever know 100% of the truth about what happened but by following these cases, we learn more each and every day it seems.

I personally think it is very important that the claims industry stay tuned to these postings for educational purposes. If we don’t know what went wrong or the alleged claim issues leading to lawsuits….how can we ever improve claim handling activities to avoid repeats of the post Katrina litigation or understand concerns expressed by policyholders when we are out in the field ? By providing real life examples, it is quite educational to new adjusters during training to understand why proper file documentation is so very important.

Nationwide Insurance Proposes One policy covering Wind and Flood Coverage

June 26, 2008

Nationwide Insurance is proposing a new policy covering the peril of flood and wind coverage. There are several news stories out on the issue as well as information Nationwide has now published on their website.

Would this not be fantastic news for adjusters? All of us who have had to make the determination after a hurricane attributing damage to wind and flood know the difficulty doing so. I am curious if the policy is written based on the posted information how adjusters would be trained and certified to handle the claims. Presently, Nationwide does have an independent adjuster certification exam. Flood claims are presently covered by NFIP requiring independent adjusters who have successfully obtained their flood certification. We’ll post more later as this information becomes available.

Here is the link to all of the news on the Enhanced Homeowners Policy as posted on the  Nationwide website: click here

Here is a link to the AP article advising Nationwide has petitioned Congress for permission to sell this policy:  click here

We continue to staff for an adjusting firm who is a Nationwide vendor and we do have a waiting list for adjusters waiting to take the next Nationwide certification class with them. If you need the Nationwide Independent adjuster certification exam and would like to be notified of the next class, submit your resume verifying a minimum of two years of adjusting experience to Dimechimes Claims Staffing and Claim Training (contact info on About page here on blog)  and we will notify you of the next scheduled certification class and testing.

Breaking News- Citizens has posted 30 firms selected for Tier 1 on new RFP

June 18, 2008

Special thanks to the claims manager who has shared that Citizens has now posted the names of the 30 adjusting firms selected to fill the new RFP for daily and catastrophe claims.

The information is not in the usual Awarded or Closed Purchasing documents but is listed in the FUTURE Meeting dates section for the Board of Govenor meetings due to a 6/18/2008 2:30 PM Claims Committee meeting where they are seeking approval on their selection of these 30 firms out of the 69 firms submitting RFP documents.

Here are the links to read all of their uploaded documents as they have posted on their website:

**UPDATE 6/19- they’ve  now moved the meeting notes to the PAST meetings link when you click on the Board of govenors notes. Here is the new link where you’ll find all of the documents


**note if your system is like mine, I get a security warning any time I try to access a Citizens web page but if you just keep refreshing your web browser the page will eventually come up

These are the documents they presently have uploaded on the left side of this link to the June 18, 2008 Claims committee meeting:

Meeting Documents:
Main Agenda Document:
Agenda Items:

02A: 02A RFP 08 0016.pdf

02B: 02B 08 0016 Addendum.pdf

03A: 03A IA Daily CAT Exec Summary.pdf

03B: 03B Exhibit A RFP Timeline.pdf

03C: 03C Exhibit B Statement of Work.pdf

03D: 03D Exhibit C Contract Terms and Conditions.pdf

03E: 03E Exhibit D Firms Recommended.pdf


It is my understanding directly from the claim manager who advised the documents were posted that they have not yet received communication from Citizens notifying them that they were not selected/were selected. They found the information by searching the web site as well. I had been watching it every several hours for the announcement but in the usual places for Awarded and Closed purchasing documents.

This is a major disappointment for the firms not selected who participated and incurred the expense to host the new face to face training for the 2008 storm season and now “feel like lame ducks” knowing they will work catastrophe claims in 2008 but not selected for 2009. Our sympathies are with these firms.

Make sure to read all of the documents uploaded for their meeting this afternoon as they contain timelines for the transitions for the new firms who will be working as well as designated training periods for the new vendors.

We note that there are several firms not on the current list of 46 firms for the 2008 season so we’ll be furnishing website links for the new firms as soon as we have the list completed for our members over at ClaimSmentor.

Ladder Safety Concerns for Adjusters-Safety Equipment Suggestions

June 18, 2008


Here we are in the midst of major hail storm activity thus a timely reminder about adjuster safety when it comes to doing roof inspections. Don’t let the carrier quotas for inspection and closing numbers cause you to lose perspective of the dangers involved in working roof damage claims.

Each year we hear of adjusters who have fallen off of a roof. As an independent adjuster, most of these folks are self employed and unfortunately many are without health insurance or long term disability policies to protect them should an injury occur  while out on assignment. Here are a few articles and blogs that discuss these issues:

The Consumer Product Safety alert below says there are over 164,000 visits annually (another consumer report indicates it is 180,000 visits) to emergency rooms resulting from ladder usage:

Here is a link to  OSHA ladder safety information:

Here’s another article on ladder safety by the National AG database not only on ladder placement against buildings but also for safety using ladders in trees:

Our hats off to Worley adjusting firm  as the only adjusting firm I know of which requires adjusters sign off on a ladder safety quiz to be sure they know the  guidelines as part of their new applicant package ( I do know many other adjusting firms do discuss the ladder safety issues at yearly conferences): **Just scroll down to the ladder safety quiz

Several adjuster forums discuss ladder safety if you view the following links on ladder safety topics and falls many adjusters have experienced:

Here’s the link to the Petzel rope harness products mentioned in that discussion:

Here’s a link to another blog on adjuster ladder safety after yet another adjuster’s death from falling off a roof:

On a more upbeat note, you’ve got to see this Atlas Devices’ new in 2007 Rope Ascender- what a cool tool! Watch both videos on the roof ascender here:

And the product info on these roof ascenders here:

Have you seen the Ladder EZE Automatic Ladder Level?

Another favorite product  are the “Custom Tool Belts” designed for field adjusters. I had a discussion today with Chris Miller, the owner, who is also a member of our adjuster training site,ClaimSmentor, providing information on roof safety issues as well as on siding matching issues as Chris also owns Chris was sharing with me that he has attended many adjuster training seminars where ladder safety is discussed and he has noticed that the ladder safety videos never show the common practice of adjusters climbing a roof with camera in hand, tape measure, roof chalk for marking hail hits, and their sketch pad and pencil for diagramming and how very dangerous this is. These belts provide the relief adjusters need to safely handle roof inspections while hands are free for safe access to the ladder. If you haven’t seen these custom tool belts, here’s a link:

Another favorite ladder safety product we tested in our ClaimSmentor Roving Reporter program (firms donate 1 sample of their product for testing or allow us to send a student free of charge to an adjuster training class where an objective evaluation is done by a designated volunteer participant in our forums) is the Guardian Walk Through Ladder attachment. I know without a doubt that I wish I’d had a set of these walk through devices during my years of climbing roofs on storm losses for a much more secure feeling. These walk through ladder extensions received glowing evals from our tester who himself was an experienced contractor/roofer prior to becoming an adjuster. Here is a link of a picture of these walk through devices:

We found these today at Rock Supply on sale for $185.00 which is about $100.00 off of the price we’d located last hail season:

There was a recall on one of the walk through ladder extensions and a fix has been provided as well so ask about the repair attachment if you do order one of these just in case those being sold today still do have these issues:

We also found the rope and harness kits available here:

You can also order your rope and harness equipment through KSquared-see below comments for their rope and harness class as well. 

Speaking of Guardian Fall, we did successfully obtain a 20% discount on their Safe_T ladder walk through extensions last year for ClaimSmentor participants so you might want to check  there to see if you can obtain a discount (ask for their National Accounts rep):

K Squared is one of the only firm’s I’m familiar with who offers the Rope and Harness training for adjusters but the owner himself is a field adjuster so we’ve experienced delays trying to get the classes when participants wanted them in groups if the owner was out on assignment. The catastrophe adjuster book sold by this firm has also received an excellent rating by one of our participants who also evaluated the book for us from a new adjuster’s perspective:

We are working with another group who has developed a rope and harness class and will post more information on that training when it is finalized. If you know of other firms offering this training for independent adjusters, we’d appreciate links to their websites.

 Carriers offer the rope and harness training and equipment to their staff adjusters but not generally to independent adjusters. You can add this to the list of Pros of going staff adjuster. As a staff adjuster working regular non storm claims, your unit receives theft losses, liability claims, grease fires, and many other claims that don’t require roof inspections. Members of my unit would always gladly trade me a steep roof loss for one of these losses which required much more work and a much longer tail in closing. As an independent, you don’t have the luxury of file swapping. If you missed our prior blog on the Pros and Cons of Staff vs Independent adjuster…. here’s a link:

I’d make sure to stop by and view the Consumer Safety information found on ladders for many ladder recalls and safety issues by manufacturer before using or purchasing ladders for your adjusting inspection duties:

Here’s are 13 ladders they found unacceptable as well:

Carriers often require double pulls with your ladder which has always caused me great concern as a claims manager. Be sure you are properly trained on doing so BEFORE you attempt this. I recall the very limited training I got back in the early 80’s when I first moved to the field from an in office position. It consisted of an experienced adjuster riding with me and showing me how to unfold the Stapleton ladder we were required to use in the quickest manner possible for unfolding it and getting it back in the company car in the most efficient manner. Out on my first storm, a reinspector gave me additional tips to include keeping one key in the car truck so I didn’t have to waste one valuable minute taking keys in and out of the car to get the ladder in and out of the trunk (also a great tip as it’s very common for adjusters to lock the keys in the car in the rush of meeting inspection quota daily requirements).

Here is a cute story about “Closer to God” written by a Home Inspector about his experience on a steep roof loss with great advice to be sure you carry a cellphone ON the roof with you in case you can’t get down:

I can assure you that I for one should never have done roof inspections! I had a serious fear of heights and hugged many a chimney in my 11 years in the field before progressing into management. I also was never comfortable with the double pull requirements although I saw female adjusters much more petite than I do it successfully due to their confidence level. The only time I was ever happy climbing up that ladder was when being chased in the yard by an insured’s dog and the ladder looked like a better option than the unavoidable dog bite I might have otherwise incurred. I will never forget a reinspector training me in the early years taking me to a loss for training. He did not have a ladder with us and I was told to climb the roof from the insured’s paint ladder. While it was difficult enough getting up, getting down was virtually impossible for me since I was under 5 ft tall. He simply laid on his stomach and rolled off grabbing the gutters and jumping. I was horrified doing so to say the least.

Today, I just would have said no and waited for a ladder even if it meant waiting 30 minutes for one to arrive no matter how angry he may have become.  Seriously consider the many claim central in office claim positions that are now available should you suffer a similar fear of heights. It is not worth the danger to your life and I should never have put myself through the heartache of doing something I made even more dangerous due to my fear of heights. There are so many more options available for adjusters today to work as contents specialists, additional living expense team members, business interruption claim specialists, and of course as liability adjusters.

A few other thoughts for new adjusters from some of the mentors who taught me during my training years:

1) Always honk your horn before jumping out of your vehicle to see if any loose dogs around. I’ve heard numerous stories of adjusters in the process of removing their ladder or setting it up only to be charged by a dog with vicious movements.

2) Never deny a claim from the roof. It’s not unheard of for insureds to remove an adjuster’s ladder in anger!

3)Watch out for your adjuster buddies in the neighborhood. Pranks are often played taking off with an adjuster’s ladder leaving them stranded (more a staff adjuster prank to destroy quotas of a competitor!)

4) Carriers always require your photos be taken from the ridge. Drive by photos as I’ve seen some try to get by with aren’t going to fly nor photos taken from the eaves. They want your photo to reflect you were on the roof.

This leads to another great tip received to circumvent some insureds who call in alleging you never got on their roof- leave your calling card near the chimney under a shingle. Use the same spot routinely so you can direct someone to where you might have left it. It’s really humorous as an adjuster to go up on a roof and see what adjusters have been up there before you on prior losses when you find their business card as many use this tip in our industry!

5) Don’t ever ever climb a roof you are not comfortable with. It seems that most carriers expect you to climb atleast up to a 7/12 pitch. They also usually have rope and harness certified adjusters to work steep/two story teams where they will send those folks out on the ones you just are not comfortable with. In many cases they will do this for independents as well as staff but check with the carrier or adjusting firm management for specific directions for their procedures.

 It is ALWAYS a good idea to take a risk photo to show the steep nature of the roof before requesting a two story team conduct the roof inspection.

These rope and harness teams this year are providing excellent opportunities for new adjusters with construction backgrounds to work as an assistant to the rope and harness team senior partner while also having time to train in the field on file requirements before being let loose on your own. The rates I’m hearing from some of the adjusters doing so is a daily rate between $200-$250 per day while they are an assistant and the daily rate being bumped up to the $500-$550 rates (your portion of this would depend on the fee split you have agreed to with the adjusting firm- usually 60/40 or so) once you are the senior rope and harness adjuster with your own team. I’ve mentioned this before and will do so again here- I would be sure to specify you are rope and harness certified on your resume if you have the training as it is sure to get you additional assignments.

There are many  stories on the internet about tips if you find yourself (escaping a fire..or your ladder falls and the insured is not home) in the position of having to jump off a roof…here is one example:

There are also some great articles from firefighters who must access a roof for fire ventilation and many safety tips if you must climb a roof after a fire in firefighter manuals such as this to avoid the roof collapsing beneath you. While these many articles are directed to fire fighters, what great advice for adjusters also working fire losses before climbing these roofs. Consider these same dangers when inspecting a roof that has been compromised with a tree that has punctured the roof structure:

This next link has some fascinating pictures of how firefighters anchor themselves with the use of axes and other tools from interior walls as a means of escaping if their interior escape route is cut off (I’m sure adjusters have had these same concerns about collapse of structural components while inspecting severely damaged structures from fires, hurricanes, etc).

Speaking of ladders- have you seen these great EZ-GLIDE System van ladder racks which lower the ladder to you with the switch of a lever? What a great option for adjusters who must pull their ladder in and out of a vehicle multiple times a day which is exhausting when you are working 7 days a week/ 12 hours daily:

Cougar Paws are the favored shoe of many independents for roof climbing safety concerns:

If you are an experienced adjuster and have some great advice for new adjusters on roof safety issues, feel free to reply to this post. We’d love to hear from you as you share your helpful advice with others entering this industry. I’ll end this blog with one final link to a great article that sums up the safety issues, double pull conversations and some good comments by others participating on the blog:

Remember, what is safe to one adjuster who is highly skilled and comfortable on steep roofs may not be comfortable with you. Your life is much more important than a fee bill for a roof inspection. Walk away from the assignment without a second thought if you are not comfortable working the loss. Do not be pressured to inspect something unsafe to you.

 I’ve been on the receiving end of pressure from managers who were supervising steep two story teams who had complaints about some files turned in for a steep two story team inspect with comments that my assigned adjuster should have inspected it. I strongly disagree. If you find a trend with an adjuster you are supervising showing they clearly cannot work a territory which consists of steep roofs but other indications are they are a great adjuster, my first course of action would be to see if there is another territory at the storm location with less steep roofs. Charleston, SC was one great example where downtown had horrific roofs to climb yet I could move adjusters to a different residential area easily thus keeping two great adjusters instead of the alternative of sending one home who couldn’t work the downtown area.

We wish you all a very safe storm season and very glad to see so many adjusters out in the field after two very dry years for most independent adjusters.

What shots does CDC recommend for disaster workers? Watch for more flood adjuster training info this week

June 16, 2008


I have limited time available to post new blogs this week but wanted to be sure to get this information up today about CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommendations for shots for disaster workers. This is especially important for the many of you deploying to the flood damage in Iowa and other states. Fox news is extensively reporting about the toxic waters, the mold issues, the snakes and other harmful issues that could cause major safety concerns for insurance adjusters.

Here are the CDC recommendations. I would take heed and see your physician for the necessary shots BEFORE you depart:

Watch later this week for our posts on claims adjuster/ independent adjuster flood claim training information to include NFIP certification, special estimate software specific to flood claims and much more info you need to know on flood coverage , flood policies, and more issues that differ to work as a flood adjuster versus a property adjuster on wind, hail, fire, and other type of losses as the file requirements and safety concerns differ greatly.

Claim Adjuster and Agent Relationships- Part II

June 12, 2008


 Months ago, I wrote about the difference great relationships between adjusters and agents can make while out  on claim assignments. If you missed that post, here is a link:

Interestingly at this week’s ACE conference, Rose Kuba of Arthur J Gallagher Risk Management made a presentation with many of the same comments and providing additional suggestions for enhancing the claims experience for policyholders. Here is a link to the article summarizing her presentation: