Judge William Acker has just functionally awarded summary judgement to Renfroe in the Renfroe v. Rigsby Gals case in the Northern District of Alabama.
Acker, true to form, parsed no words in his Memorandum Opinion about the Rigsby Gals conduct . . .
This court has already made clear its belief that the pendency of the qui tam case in which the Rigsbys are relators, and which was filed in April 2006 without Renfroe as a defendant, did not authorize the relators, while employed by Renfroe, to steal State Farm documents from Renfroe, whether the documents were thereafter used to enhance their already pending qui tam case, or for litigation in which State Farm insureds were plaintiffs represented by relators’ employer, Scruggs, or for both purposes. This court has been cited no authority for the proposition that qui tam relators can, while blowing the whistle, conduct a second-story job without subjecting themselves to possible criminal sanctions and/or to civil liability for conversion or for breach of a confidentiality agreement. Being a self-appointed representative of the United States does not commission the relator to conduct clandestine or illegal operations in furtherance of a pending qui tam action. When this theft occurred, the United States had not intervened in the qui tam case, and, as far as the record reflects, still has not intervened. In other words, these relators assumed considerable risk when they unilaterally decided that their contractual obligation to their employer gave way to a higher obligation to expose fraud and, inadvertently, to get handsomely paid for it under the sharing provisions of the False Claims Act. If the United States had formally deputized the Rigsbys to steal documents, an entirely different problem would be presented.
Then later in the opinion . . .
Whether Renfroe can recover from the Rigsbys their ill-gotten gains in the form of the substantial consulting fees received from Scruggs need not be determined today. At this juncture, the only question is: “Was there a breach-of-contract that potentially caused Renfroe compensable damage?” The answer to this question is “Yes”, meaning that Renfroe is entitled to summary judgment on the simple question of liability by the Rigsbys for breach-of-contract.
The Rigsbys’s counter-motion, making the same arguments they made to this court and to the Eleventh Circuit in defense of the breachof- contract claim (except for their additional qui tam argument), is due to be denied. Renfroe will be put to the proof on damages.
Acker also set a January 9, 2009 trial date solely for the purpose of determining damages. In addition to seeking attorney fees, Renfroe could theoretically seek moneys that Dickie Scruggs paid the Rigsby Gals as functional compensation for stealing these documents.