State Farm Claims Manager Ordered To Testify

By Anita Lee
Sun Herald (Biloxi, MS)
April 20, 2009

The State Farm claims manager whom policyholders have long wanted to question in Katrina litigation has been ordered to give pre-trial testimony in a whistle-blower lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge L.T. Senter Jr. ruled Monday that State Farm employee Alexis “Lecky” King can be questioned under oath by attorneys for Kerri and Cori Rigsby. The Ocean Springs sisters adjusted State Farm claims after Katrina.

Their lawsuit alleges State Farm defrauded the federal government by charging the National Flood Insurance Program for wind damage the insurance company was obligated to cover.

The Rigsbys say King was the manager who ordered changes when engineering reports blamed wind rather than water, covered by federal flood insurance, for Katrina damage.

The Rigsbys allegations in 2006 fueled a state investigation of State Farm and King, who has previously invoked her right to avoid self-incrimination in responding to policyholder questions under oath. Attorney General Jim Hood’s investigation ended without any charges being filed.

King has denied any wrongdoing.

State Farm has since said King would be able to respond to questions, but has objected to producing her for pre-trial testimony. In the Rigsby case, State Farm argued that King was not involved in adjusting the only flood claim still at issue.

However, the Rigsbys allege she was involved in subsequently ensuring the engineering report in that case was altered to minimize wind damage. The Rigsbys argued the wind and flood claims could not be separated.

Senter said he agreed “to a certain extent.” He also wrote that State Farm “should not be in control of limiting the areas of inquiry.”

Senter also will allow the Rigsbys’ attorneys to take the pre-trial testimony of Brian Ford, the engineer who produced the first report on the flooded property and Jack Kelly, who wrote the second report.

The testimony will be taken in preparation for a May 20 hearing, after which Senter will determine whether the case should go forward against State Farm, Haag Engineering and Forensic, which employed Kelly and Ford. Shortly after Katrina, a Haag engineer authored a report on the storm that many believe minimized the impact of Katrina’s winds. Insurers, including State Farm, referred to the report in adjusting claims.

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