After refusing to answer policyholders’ questions for almost two years, a State Farm claims manager accused of mishandling Katrina claims has talked to the Mississippi Insurance Department for a market conduct study of the company and also is prepared to testify in policyholder cases.

MID’s long-awaited and overdue market conduct study of how the company handled claims was supposed to be released before month’s end, but now won’t be ready until late September at the earliest. A source familiar with the study says follow-up is needed as a result of Alexis “Lecky” King’s responses.

An attorney in the contentious McIntosh vs. State Farm case, Chip Merlin, said State Farm has indicated King also will answer questions and is available for pre-trial testimony, called a deposition, in that case. Merlin said he is trying to schedule the deposition for early September in Pensacola, where King lives.

King has since at least November 2006 refused to answer questions about Katrina in previous depositions taken by policyholder attorneys in Oklahoma and Florida. Presumably, she has done the same in Mississippi cases, but U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert H. Walker has ordered her testimony closed to the public so only the attorneys involved in the cases know for sure.

They are forbidden to discuss the sealed depositions and insurance records filed in U.S. District Court in Gulfport.

In other states, King has refused to answer questions on the grounds that she might incriminate herself. She was under criminal investigation by state and federal authorities examining State Farm claims, her attorney has acknowledged. The state investigation has ended and the federal government has so declined to pursue charges in court against State Farm.

Sun Herald