Scruggs Nation, Day 17: Jones v. Scruggs revisited

But back to the central point of today: why would he do it? What Jones and Funderburg appear to be driving at is that acting in this way is a habit, a method of doing business. Seen in this light, the alleged bribery scheme is just an extension of this ruthless business method. Even if that is true, another question remains. Why try bribery to get the case into arbitration when Jones, it is evident from looking at the documents, had repeatedly demanded arbitration pursuant to the joint venture contract before filing suit? Jones’ answer in the pleadings is that once the lawsuit was filed — perhaps Scruggs and the others did not truly believe Jones would file suit and instead believed he would back down and take either the original $1 million offered, the lesser $600,000 offered later, or perhaps even less — the potential for bad publicity and punitive damages from the tort claims in the lawsuit led to a re-evaluation. This re-evaluation must have been relatively quick, because the lawsuit was filed March 15, 2007, and the defendants filed a motion to compel arbitration April 10. In addition, prosecutors have alleged the purported bribery scheme involving Scruggs began around March 28. Another possible explanation is this: what if Scruggs thought that Jones, not a member of the inner circle of the SKG (good grief, he didn’t even have his own private jet!) just needed to be taught a lesson about power and who is fit to wield it in this world? What if? Under such a view, the alleged bribery might be seen as an expedient, perhaps regrettable, perhaps not, to support and re-inforce the natural order, a kind of historical determinism in which the little things like alleged bribes are all subsumed in inevitability. What if?

There are other points worth exploring that are touched on by the Jones v. Scruggs pleadings, including a re-evaluation of the supposed “whistleblower” Rigsby sisters. We can talk about that in greater depth at a later time, but since, included in the pleadings, is Judge Acker’s order finding Scruggs in contempt and recommending him for prosecution in the Renfroe v. Rigsby, let me just recommend that you read it again closely in light of the Jones lawsuit, and ask yourself this. It is apparent that Jones and possibly other members of SKG were troubled by hiring material witnesses as litigation consultants, and also with paying them with SKG funds. What if — just what if — when the protective order is finally lifted on the State Farm claims documents the Rigsby sisters took from Renfroe, they are found to match up virtually one for one with the policyholder lawsuits Scruggs and SKG had already filed? What would that say about their whistleblower status? What would it say about Jim Hood’s involvement with the Rigsby sisters, his grand jury investigation of State Farm and his suggestion that Scruggs (according to Scruggs’ testimony) send the documents to him, Hood, rather than comply with Acker’s injunction, at a time where Hood’s criminal and civil pressure played a big part in State Farm’s willingness to settle with Scruggs? Again, what if, and what would this say?

David Rossmiller
Insurance Coverage Blog