What Gulf Coast Congressman Gene Taylor wanted the Easter Bunny to bring him.
South Mississippi Living 4/07

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

George Dale Should Thank Dickie Scruggs

by Ana Maria

The last two weeks have produced a great deal of hand wringing, teeth gnashing, and finger pointing regarding what caused Mississippi’s 32-year veteran insurance commissioner to loose his job. When Mississippi Democrats voted in the primary on August 7th, they fired George Dale and hired Gary Anderson in his place. Anderson has that fire in the belly to protect homeowners and business owners from Big Insurance.

Neither Dale nor some of his ardent supporters—many of whom are Republican and insurance big wigs—seem capable of believing that Dale could have lost his job all on his own and that Mississippi voters actually elected another man—an African American one at that. Perhaps all of this together stings Dale’s Old South blood that may be coursing through his veins.

The simple fact is that George Dale a sore loser. He gambled with his career, and he lost. His whining and crying? A bunch of sour grapes. Dale turned a blind eye to the fact that it was he who rolled out the red carpet that permitted insurance companies to run amok over Mississippi families and business owners. Under George Dale’s leadership, Mississippi has the third highest home owner’s insurance rates in the country. Not exactly something on which to proudly campaign.

In the aftermath of Katrina, Dale’s failure as an insurance commissioner is what forced many Mississippians to turn to attorneys to fight BIG INSURANCE. Dale forced Mississippians to go to court because he was too busy ignoring his responsibilities. On August 7th, Mississippi Democrats demonstrated what they thought of Dale’s performance and fired him. Good bye, George.

“My mistake after Katrina was saying . . . some claims are not going to be paid because of water damage.”
No, George, your mistake was not doing your job. Your mistake was not seeing to it that the insurance companies quickly and faithfully paid out on their wind insurance policies as they should have. I see why you campaigned for George W. Bush in 2004. The two of you have the same aversion for taking responsibility for what is rightfully yours and yours alone.

Has George Dale blamed himself? No. Following his electoral defeat, George Dale told the Biloxi Sun-Herald, “Two things that were major factors ... were Katrina and Dickie Scruggs. That's pretty much what it was.”

Huh? George Dale and his supporters are blaming trial lawyers in general and Dickie Scruggs in particular for his own electoral demise? And blaming Katrina, too? Well, if that don’t beat all.

How Katrina Drowned Dale’s Re-election
Katrina showed the world that the Dale wasn’t doing his job. Dale deliberately turned his back on the very people who needed him the most and for whom he could have and should have used the power of his elected office to help in their hour of greatest need. When Dale abandoned his responsibilities, others stepped up to the plate to protect families and business owners from the ravages of Big Insurance.

That “someone” was a group of “someones”, and they are called lawyers—trial lawyers. Thank GAWD for them. They are our hired guns and when we need one, we want the best of them. One of my very dearest friends is the former head of the trial lawyers association in California’s Silicon Valley whom I admire tremendously for his commitment to justice both inside and out of the courtroom. Like plenty of trial lawyers, Mohinder Mann is a great community leader who brings peace and justice into the situations with which he becomes involved.

When insurance companies began ripping off policyholders and George Dale snuggled ever so tightly to his corporate insurance friends, plenty of heroic trial lawyers stepped up to the plate—Scruggs Katrina Group,The Merlin Group, Ballducci, Mississippians . . . These men and women have helped protect Katrina’s families and businesses from being battered over the head and beaten up by Big Insurance’s slick corporate attorneys.

Had George Dale done his job, these law suits would have been unnecessary. The Scurggs Katrina Group would not have formed. Dickie Scruggs would not have had clients for whom to file lawsuits. If George Dale had done his job, he would have been the one to file a racketeering lawsuit against State Farm rather than leaving it up to a private citizen who cares deeply about his fellow Mississippians to file it.

Mississippians for Fair Elections
George Dale is upset that Dickie Scruggs put up $250,000 of his own money into a political action committee that aired a commercial that told the truth about how Dale has allowed the insurance industry to deny claims all over the state. At the same time, Dale had approved a 30% increase in insurance premiums. What’s the problem?

Well, from Dale’s perspective, speaking the truth is problematic because, well, he’s used to not telling the truth. Information is critical to an informed electorate. And informed electorate is critical to fair elections. Dickie Scruggs was merely exercising his right as an American to assist his fellow Mississippians in being more informed of their lives under George Dale.

This reminds me of the Bush Administration being angry at the leak rather than embarrassed that it betrayed our trust to spoil American blood in a war that was wholly unnecessary. No wonder Dale campaigned for Bush in 2004. They had some kind of “shirk responsibility” bond thing going on.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Angriest . . .
Rather than pointing a finger at Dickie Scruggs, George Dale should be thanking heaven that the Dickie Scruggs of the world exist to protect consumers from corporate thievery when the government officials who are supposed to protect us walk away from their responsibilities. Sure, the involvement of Dickie Scruggs and other attorneys with Katrina lawsuits is a clear indicator that Dale failed miserably as a commissioner. But Dale’s failure is his own—not those who are helping to clean up his mess.

Dickie Scruggs has come to symbolize all of the good that trial lawyers do for the little guys and all of the failure George Dale has brought into his own life by not doing his job. A real shame, isn’t it?

That, my friends, is the holy all of it. George Dale did not do his job, which was to regulate Big Insurance and how they treated Mississippi’s families and businesses. He did not demand that these insurance companies live up to their word, pay out on their wind claims, and treat South Mississippians with the respect that they deserved.

If Dale had done his job, Gary Anderson would not have had a reason to run for insurance commissioner to protect Mississippi households and business owners. We’d have already been in good hands. The commissioner would have already proven himself to be like a good neighbor.

If Dale had done his job, the Dickie Scruggs of the world would not have had to step in and do it for him. George Dale should thank Dickie Scruggs for helping to bring justice and hope to the families that he had betrayed.

George Dale fails to look at himself in the mirror much less in the eye. On his own, George Dale lost his job, and he has no one to blame but himself. No wonder he's angry.

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Bryan said...

When Trent Lott has to hire a lawyer to get his insurance policy honored, you know the system is broken.

Dickie may be Trent brother-in-law, but that would be another reason to settle his claim, as if being a US Senator weren't enough.

The thing is, the system is really broken when even rich and powerful people get treated like dirt. What chance does the average person have in a system like that?

Ana Maria said...

Indeed, you are absolutely correct. When Trent Lott sued his insurance company, when he is all of a sudden joining Democratic leaders to co-sponsor legislation that would regulate an entire industry with which he had been aligned in the past, things are broken.

Thanks for reading and commenting! :)


A. G. Trimble said...

Scruggs - is this the same Scruggs that's been charged with criminal contempt? Ana, how you pick and choose the Sun Herald stories you cut and paste to your propoganda board...

Feds charge Scruggs, law firm
Contempt charged in insurance spat


Special prosecutors charged prominent Mississippi attorney Richard Scruggs and his law firm with criminal contempt Tuesday in a Hurricane Katrina insurance dispute.
A motion to summon Scruggs and the Scruggs Law Firm was also filed Tuesday by the prosecutors, who asked that the court schedule an arraignment in the contempt of court case.

Calls to Scruggs and his son, Zack, who is a partner in the firm, were not returned Tuesday afternoon.

U.S. District Judge William Acker ruled in June that Scruggs "willfully violated" a Dec. 8 preliminary injunction that required him to deliver "all documents" about State Farm Insurance Co. that whistle-blowers Cori and Kerri Rigsby had secretly copied after Katrina.

Last month, Acker named Charles Sharp and Joel Williams to serve as special prosecutors in the case after U.S. Attorney Alice Martin declined the judge's request to prosecute Scruggs and his firm.

Acker's ruling came in a suit by E.A. Renfroe and Co., a claims adjusting firm that handled State Farm claims and fired the Rigsbys after finding out they had taken internal documents about the claims.

Instead of complying with the December injunction, Acker said Scruggs promptly sent the documents to Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood's office "for the calculated purpose of ensuring noncompliance with or avoidance" of the injunction.

The Rigsbys, from Ocean Springs, have admitted copying thousands of pages of records to back up their allegations that State Farm wrongly denied claims after Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005.

Ana Maria said...

The Clarion Ledger has an excellent editorial on the justice of this situation titled "Whistleblower: Judge victimizing Katrina victims?" I have posted this superb piece here on A.M. in the Morning!

Lisa said...

I am so thankful for George Dale. He is a member of my church and has been a wonderful mentor to my 2sons; having taught RAs for decades there. This is a good man who had Mississippi's best interests at heart; believe what you may. I honestly don't think any insurance commissioner with the aftermath of Katrina would have been re-elected. That's my humble opinion, for what it is worth.

I think George Dale *will* thank Dickie Scruggs this next year when he is enjoying his retirement though.

I can't help but wonder if Dickie Scruggs' accusations of George Dale were as much for the purpose of profitting his own pockets as for helping out the poor victims of Katrina. But I could be wrong. People tend to believe what they want; and usually that is believing the worst of people they don't personally know.

How ironic. I saw this with all the accusations against George Dale; and maybe it is Dickie Scruggs turn. It is a horrible thing to be accused of things that are not true.

As far as better insurance commissioners are concerned, let's see what the future brings. For all of our sakes, I hope the newly elected commissioner can deliver.