STATE FARM'S HEAD ON A PLATTER
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South Mississippi Living 4/07

Friday, January 18, 2008

MS-Sen: Mustgo Musgrove's Lawfirm Defending Big Insurance on Gulf Coast

by Ana Maria

Several articles in this week's Sun Herald disclose details of yet another brutal, ugly court battle between a beleaguered Katrina family and their insurance carrier, USAA. In this battle, USAA's hired gun is apparently desperately hoping to denounce the evidence that a tornado had ripped the home apart hours before the water came ashore. Today's story reported

Hours before Hurricane Katrina's storm surge arrived, the Henderson Point home of David and Marilyn Aiken had been hit by a tornado and was long gone, forensic engineer Charles Ivy told the court Thursday morning.

He agreed reluctantly under questioning by Greg Copeland, attorney for USAA Casualty Insurance Co., that the surge would have been enough to destroy the house if the house were still there.
[Emphasis mine.]

If the house were still there. I see. And IF wind had driven the Southern California fires across Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, IF that had happened and the house had been standing there--which it wasn't given that one of Hurricane Katrina's tornadoes had already blown it away--IF those Southern California fires had come through that property, would the house have been engulfed in its flames??? Hypothetically, speaking, of course.

Wow, not even the really old reruns of Matlock have these kinds of really bad court room lines written in them. Please, when the Hollywood writers strike ends, the Copeland law firm could consider hiring a few to prepare better court room drama scripts for them.

Greg Copeland, founding partner of Copeland, Cook, Taylor & Bush. We've heard that name before. That would be the same Greg Copeland who is a longtime lobbyist for the insurance industry here in Mississippi, the same Greg Copeland whom the recently ousted Mississippi Insurance Commissioner George Dale called "a good friend" and whom Dale had hired as his personal attorney for a court battle with the state Democratic Party, the same Republican law firm that represents the American Insurance Association, and the same Greg Copeland whose law firm"serves as general counsel to Mississippi's largest property and casualty insurer and as local counsel for numerous other insurance companies." On its corporate website, State Farm proudly proclaims it is Mississippi's largest homeowners insurer. Copeland's law firm is State Farm's Hired Guns. Yes, that Mr. Greg Copeland.

Copeland is defending USAA's in a lawsuit that "claims USAA and Rimkus Consulting Group Inc., which was employed by USAA, conspired to to defraud them. Earlier testimony revolved around whether changes to a property report by structural engineer James W. Jordan were made to downplay wind damage so USAA would owe less money."

The homeowner's assert that the companies “intentionally and with forethought came up with a plan to deny legitimate claims.” This lawsuit is like hundreds and hundreds of others in which Big Insurance is accused of allegedly finagling its way out of paying for wind damage that Hurricane Katrina caused. The photo below is a great example of what the Big Guns of Big Insurance are shooting at. The photo and caption are compliments of Insurance Issues Forum.

Wind of Water?
Photo compliments of Insurance Issues Forum

Big Insurance's Appalling Politics
What makes this case particularly appalling is that it reminds us on the Mississippi Gulf Coast that Big Insurance is still gunning after us, our livelihoods, our communities. It reminds us that Big Insurance is still coming into our court rooms lawyered up with extremely well paid Hired Guns whose job it is to push homeowner insurance claims into the "denied" department and leaving financially devastated homeowners blowing in the wind.

Politically speaking, what makes this case specifically appalling is that Greg Copeland is the founder of the law firm where U.S. Senate candidate Ronnie Musgrove is on the firm's payroll. With this kind of apparent conflict of interest between the Big Insurance law firm that has been paying Mustgo's salary since 2004 and those of us dealing with the handiwork of Big Insurance law firms, how Mustgo has convinced himself that he can get plenty enough of South Mississippi votes come election time is, perhaps, an adventure into fantasy land. For those of us with family, friends, and communities remaining financially devastated from Big Insurance's Big Betrayal, we live and breathe the harsh reality of Big Insurance's Big Betrayal . . . brought to us by the Big Gun Law firms, like Mustgo's.

Yeah, right, like Musgrove is going to get rid of this kind of baggage that he's been happily carrying around since 2004. Anything touching Big Insurance in a high profile campaign like the one to elect someone to the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by Senator Trent Lott is going to be as toxic as a FEMA trailer. Just ask George Dale how his cozy relationship with Big Insurance paid out for him in last year's election. For those unfamiliar with Mississippi's recent politics, Dale had been the insurance commish for 32 years and lost the election in a upset defeat by fellow Democrat Gary Anderson. It was a "down ticket" election. But the insurance woes of South Mississippi precluded Dale from retaining his office. Trent Lott's seat in the U.S. Senate is an especially great loss where insurance reform is concerned. Lott turned his personal loss in Katrina into a crusade against the insurance industry with whom he had had friendly relations for a very long time. Like many others, Lott ended up suing his insurance carrier, State Farm.

What an insult for Musgrove to believe that South Mississippians will overlook him being on the payroll of the law firm that defends State Farm and other insurance companies that are doing their best to rip off Katrina's families and businesses. We'll trade in Trent Lott who sued State Farm for an attorney who works for State Farm's lawyers?!

Naturally there are those that believe Mustgo will have an awakening regarding these obvious conflicts of interest while he is pocketing the money from his salary from Greg Copeland's law firm.

Anyone to believe that also believes that we're already fully recovered here inside Katrina Land, the private insurance industry should remain left to its own to do with us as it pleases, and someone can win statewide office in Mississippi without a significant portion of votes from South Mississippi.

This line of thinking is somewhere between fantasy land and pure hogwash. Regardless of which it is, that bait won't catch any fish around here.

The picture to the left is still an extremely common site all over this Katrina-ravaged region. Much is as if time stands still from that fateful day in August 2005. We can see the TV ads already. Photos of slabs like this intermingled with the logos of Big Insurance like State Farm and USAA. A voice over states that one of the largest defenders of Big Insurance has put up one of its own lawyers to represent Mississippi in the United States Senate claiming that the lawyer will represent the interests of Katrina families and help reform Big Insurance. The voice over continues, "We know something fishy when we smell it."

Or something like that. Musgrove Mustgo. When reading the Sun Herald's articles this week, I'm sure many readers again became disgusted with the antics of Big Insurance and their Hired Guns.

How appalling that any of our families, friends, and neighbors have had to hire attorneys to haul into court insurance companies that refuse to pay legitimate wind damage claims from Hurricane Katrina. How appalling that the CEOs and boards of directors of these insurance companies make fortunes off the misfortunes of their fellow Americans, and do so by pouring salt into our wounds through refusing to pay our legitimate claims. How appalling that the CEOs and boards of directors can actually find anyone willing to defend their indefensible and unconscionable decisions not to pay the legitimate claims but rather to pocket the claim money through pickpocketing from their customers pocketbooks.

The result? Insurance execs' pay up dramatically, one article title pronounced.

This week, the Sun Herald reported that USAA and Rimkus had allegedly conspired to rip off the homeowner in the coastal Harrison County through some kind of report switching scenario where the report from the engineer who actually examined the property and wrote up the report was altered.

USAA only paid the homeowners 25% of what the policy was worth. Copeland defended this paltry sum by essentially claiming that the homeowners were greedy. That's right. The Big Gun for Big Insurance claimed that the homeowner was greedy because, well, the customer expected the policy to be paid in full. The testimony provided apparently demonstrated that
a tornado being tracked by the National Weather Service in New Orleans around 3 a.m. Aug. 29 most likely passed directly over the Aikens' house hours before the waters rose.
The nerve some of us have! Paying premiums for wind coverage all these years and expecting our financial security to be in good hands, expecting our families to be treated like good neighbors, expecting that wind damage be rightly compensated rather than pretending that the flood did the damage.

Good grief! What the heck could we have been thinking?! To listen to Big Insurance, their Hired Guns, or other Big Insurance apologists, we should be grateful to have the opportunity to pay for insurance that never, ever, ever pays off when tornadoes or hurricane force winds blow away our homes, our businesses. Baloney!

Ensuring an Explosive Conversation
Go to any place inside the Katrina-ravaged region be it in Louisiana, Mississippi, or Alabama and mention the word insurance and watch the verbal and emotional fireworks explode every where. Otherwise fun-loving, polite, friendly people turn into something . . . different. Scowls, dirty looks, testy dispositions, and talk of physical harm to Big Insurance types, their enablers, and their apologists are among the many reactions to which we'll become privy.

We're colorful down here so be forewarned.

Talking about Big Insurance brings out tremendous passion fueled by anger steeped in unfathomable betrayal. It unites us across every kind of divide be it political (Democrat, Republican, or Independent), religious, economic, racial, gender, education, and so forth.

Thinking that anyone associated with Big Insurance can win Trent Lott's U.S. Senate seat need only remember that that was George Dale's undoing that cost him his primary election last August.


© 2008 Ana Maria Rosato. All rights reserved.
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2 comments:

Promise said...

"if it were there" - theme from the off-Broadway hit Katrina, right? Know what, I'm tired of this little song and dance. Broke up over it, too. Just not as tired and broke upas our friend Cowboy after roof surfing on the "big wave".

Thanks for posting the picture from our Mississippi Insurance Forum blog - just the inspiration I needed to get over there and start doing my job.

Corboy and Demetrio said...
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