Insurer Appeals Order to Pay $3 Million in Whistleblower Case Against State Farm Fire and Casualty Company, Arguments Scheduled for February 2014 Parker Waichman comments

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The case involved alleged fraudulent activities involving Hurricane Katrina claim activity, including directing the National Flood Insurance Program to pay benefits covered under an insured’s State Farm policy.

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“When companies exert abuses of power or take part in illegal or unethical financial activities, they not only defraud the government, they are defrauding unsuspecting tax payers,” added Mr. Falkowitz.

Parker Waichman LLP, a national law firm dedicated to protecting the rights of whistleblowers and victims injured by fraud is commenting on activity involving a whistleblower lawsuit brought against State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. The insurer recently appealed an Order that it must pay legal fees and damages totaling $3 million in a whistleblower lawsuit in which a jury found that State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. defrauded the government in a policyholder claim following Hurricane Katrina. The 5th United States Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled oral arguments in the case for February 5, 2015 in New Orleans. The case is in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit; filed action, E.A. Renfroe & Company, Inc. v. Cori Rigsby and Kerri Rigsby, Civil Action No. 06-AR-1752-S. The underlying litigation is Case No. 1:06cv0433 LTS-RHW United States District Court, Southern District of Mississippi.

Sisters, Cori and Kerri Rigsby of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, were employed by a State Farm-hired Alabama contractor to provide damage assessments following 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. The lawsuit was filed in 2006 and, in 2013, the jury found that State Farm did not cover a policyholder's wind losses and, instead, blamed the reported damage on a storm surge, a federal flood insurance covered item, according to an The Associated Press(AP) report dated December 29, 2014. State Farm is seeking the verdict be overturned and the claims dismissed.

According to Parker Waichman LLP, whistleblowers are crucial in detecting and stopping fraud and are critical to ending illegal employer activities that may cause harm to consumers and may involve fraud against the government.

“Whistleblowers have long been a critical part of helping the federal government in recovering billions of dollars that were illegally obtained by various entities,” said Gary Falkowitz, Managing Attorney at Parker Waichman. “Whistleblower lawyers have also been important to resolving cases involving fraud and have been equally important in maintaining whistleblower anonymity in these cases,” he added.

Under certain circumstances, whistleblowers may maintain their anonymity during most of the whistleblower process, according to Parker Waichman LLP, which supports efforts to protect whistleblowers and offers free case evaluations to those individuals who believe their companies may be involved in illegal practices.

The Rigsby sisters’ allegations also include that State Farm's fraud against the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was fairly broad in the Mississippi Coast area following the hurricane. They also allege having followed cases for numerous policyholders. A federal judge only took one State Farm claim involving a home lost to Katrina to trial; the sisters alleged having direct knowledge of how the claim was handled and that documents reveal that State Farm defrauded policyholders by the way in which engineers' reports were manipulated to ensure claim denial, according to the AP report.

“This case opens up the potential for other cases of fraud to emerge,” said Gary Falkowitz, Managing Attorney at Parker Waichman.

While State Farm denies wrongdoing, the NFIP paid the policy limits of $250,000 to the homeowners on the claim at the direction of
State Farm, which only paid $36,000 for wind damage on a policy that provided in excess of $500,000 in coverage, according to court documents, the AP report indicated. U.S. District Judge Halil S. Ozerden ordered State Farm to pay $750,000 in damages to the government. The Rigsby sisters will each receive 15 percent of the damages awarded the government.

“When companies exert abuses of power or take part in illegal or unethical financial activities, they not only defraud the government, they are defrauding unsuspecting tax payers,” added Mr. Falkowitz. “Parker Waichman has long supported whistleblower efforts to report illegal activities that may harm citizens and defraud government programs and firmly believes that whistleblowers play a necessary role in holding these parties responsible.”

Parker Waichman LLP supports efforts to protect whistleblowers and offers free case evaluations to those individuals who believe their companies may be involved in wrongdoings. If you believe that a government entity or insurer is committing fraudulent activities and would like to maintain your anonymity, contact Parker Waichman LLP at the firm’s Whistleblower page at yourlawyer.com or call 1-800-LAW-INFO (1-800-529-4636).

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