Maison Heidelberg was the lead attorney in the Rigsby Gals’ whistleblower case against State Farm that was strongly supported via paid PR support from the Scruggs team and their use of the Rendon Group.
State Farm and Renfroe have charged Scruggs with two basic types of ethical misconduct and with conflicts of interest, all of which relate in one way or another to the relationship between Scruggs and the SKG and two former Renfroe employees Cori and Kerri Rigsby (the Rigsby sisters). State Farm and Renfroe allege 1) that Scruggs participated and encouraged the Rigsby sisters to wrongfully appropriate and disclose confidential documents in which both State Farm and Renfroe had a legitimate right to confidentiality; and 2) that Scruggs paid the Rigsby sisters a substantial sum in furtherance of Scruggs’s efforts to encourage the misappropriation of these documents. State Farm and Renfroe have alleged additional acts of misconduct relating to other witnesses and to the plaintiffs’ counsel having obtained documentary and physical evidence without following the established procedure for the use of out-of-state subpoenas in the discovery process.
I have determined that disqualification is required because Scruggs, acting in furtherance of the SKG joint venture, paid the Rigsby sisters a substantial sum of money (a consulting fee of $150,000 per year) despite Scruggs’s knowledge that the
Rigsby sisters were material witnesses in connection with many hurricane damage claims that were likely to become the subject of litigation. While Scruggs made the arrangements for these payments, the other members of the SKG joint venture knew or should have known that the payments were being made, and I am of the opinion that their failure to take timely and reasonable remedial steps or to object to this arrangement amounts to a ratification of Scruggs’s actions. While the other ethical misconduct alleged by State Farm and Renfroe are substantial, the payments to the Rigsby sisters are, in and of themselves, sufficient to warrant disqualification.
The optics of having the Rigsby Gals’ lawyer involved on behalf of the state against the same defendant is unquestionably bad. Just remember, there are no coincidences.