Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 28, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

QUOTE OF THE DAY....Republican Senator Trent Lott lost his house to Hurricane Katrina last year, and the LA Times reports that although he's upset at FEMA, he's also got some other beefs:

The longtime Washington foe of "frivolous" lawsuits was no less critical of insurance companies that balked at paying claims to Mississippi homeowners. And he didn't hesitate to file suit against a company he once defended, State Farm Fire & Casualty Co.

"Funny how frivolous lawsuits stop being frivolous when it's you," said Lott's brother-in-law, Richard Scruggs, who is representing the senator. Scruggs lost his home not far from Lott's house and he, along with thousands of other Mississippi home owners, also has a claim against State Farm.

Mugged by reality indeed.

Kevin Drum 2:39 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (60)

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Comments

Trent Lott's Dogma hit by Karma, film at 11.

Welcome to the real world asshole.

Posted by: Ten in Tenn on January 28, 2006 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

Reality is a world class mugger. Mississippi's been getting mugged for years by electing people like Trent Lott.

But I guess that's what most of the people want. Better to have somebody reflect your prejudices than get on with reality.

Posted by: little ole jim from red country on January 28, 2006 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

Southern fried stupidity.

Bring it on Jesus.

Posted by: koreyel on January 28, 2006 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

I sure hope that State Farm wins in the suit against Lott.

What a hypocritical piece of crap he is.

Posted by: dataguy on January 28, 2006 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

he's not using....[gasp!]...a Trial Lawyer is he?????

Posted by: idlecrank on January 28, 2006 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

So if someone is against friviolous lawsuits, and they follow a lawsuit, then they're hypocritical?

Um... Somehow that doesn't seem to follow.

Posted by: Tom on January 28, 2006 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

Before anyone gets all worked up about Richard Scruggs getting mugged by State Farm, I would suggest a google search.
He may listen to Flatt and Scruggs, but he "ain't" chump change - Lead attorney against the asbestos industry, lead against big tobacco. He is a battleship firing 16 inch guns.

This is not Bill Murray playing a strip mall wannabe attorney in "Wild Things".

Posted by: thethirdPaul on January 28, 2006 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

Tom: don't miss the point. Everybody is against frivolous law suits (except maybe a few dishonest lawyers).

The point is that Trent Lott, like so many of his Republican brethern, has engaged in trashing trial lawyers as a group. It's been his choice to build his political appeal upon the trashing of certain groups of people.

Posted by: little ole jim from red country on January 28, 2006 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

thethirdPaul: Right. Trent Lott and Scruggs have often been on opposite sides of the political fence. Lott was not a fan of the way Mike Moore (as Mississippi Attorney General) and Scruggs socked it to Big Tobacco.

Posted by: little ole jim from red country on January 28, 2006 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

Only a lefty Dumbercrat wouldn't know the difference between a frivolous and real lawsuit where you have genuine damages. I love it!

Posted by: Fat White Guy on January 28, 2006 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

That would be "one of his houses". Or "his vacation home", not "his house".

Posted by: EssJay on January 28, 2006 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

> Fat White Guy wrote:
"Only a lefty Dumbercrat wouldn't know the difference between a frivolous and real lawsuit where you have genuine damages. I love it!"

The Republicans *say* they are against frivolous lawsuit, so they institute caps against the people that are the most seriously hurt and need it the most. They then go and work on exempting entire industries from *any* type of liability.

People should be responsible for their actions. I thought that personal responsibility was a conservative trait.

Posted by: Dave on January 28, 2006 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter Lott: My lawsuit is legitimate, yours is frivolous.

Posted by: cal gal on January 28, 2006 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

Senator Lott shouldn't have knowingly built a vacation home on a coast that is frequently ravaged by hurricanes. I thought he was a member of the party of personal responsibility.

Maybe he can hire John Edwards to file a frivolous lawsuit on his behalf.

Posted by: TLaemmle on January 28, 2006 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

I just ate a family-size jar of cheez-whiz and now I'm constipated. I love it!

Posted by: Fat White Guy on January 28, 2006 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

...now if we can just get his children or grandchildren or other family members into the armed forces in Iraq, maybe there would be some re-thinking there, too.

Posted by: jcricket on January 28, 2006 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

The hallmark of someone in power is that they believe themselves to be above everything, and immune to the same forces that wreak havoc amongst the common people. If only Trent-baby had read the old Greek Myths, he would've known that flying too close to the sun may melt your wings. Now, the trick is to turn this into an advantage for America somehow. But we, as a nation, do not learn lessons, sad to say. If we did, perhaps we would choose to limit the power of any one group.

Posted by: Chris on January 28, 2006 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

I know a guy who lost his house, maybe a mile away from Lott's, and had the same old family friend State Farm agent, who basically told all his clients "Gee, I'm sorry you lost your house. Tough shit, I guess." I get the feeling that Lott's lawsuit is going to become a class action with all affected homeowners against all the insurance companies who are calling hurricane damage flood damage. That's probably the reason for the presence of such a high profile attorney. It will be huge for the insurance companies, the trial lawyers, and the homeowners.

Posted by: mdsand on January 28, 2006 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

His new house is going be fantastic.

Posted by: B on January 28, 2006 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

I work for State Farm - funny how only a few weeks after getting the tort reform legislation that every P&C insurance companies spent millions lobbying for, State Farm gets sued by a co-sponsor.

I know State Farm policies - despite the lies by Lott and his cronies, there is no hurricane clause in Missisippi. The only thing that is pertinent here is 'proximate cause'. It doesn't matter where the water came from, if your house is washed off the foundation by a flood, then a freak tornado carries it off and drops it on a burning gas main, burning it to the ground, you can't file a 'fire' claim because the whole loss event was started by a flood, and water is specifically not covered in the policy.

For those of you who have home insurance, look at your policy - it really does specifically exclude water and 'wind blown' water.

Posted by: mowaca on January 28, 2006 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

A lawsuit??!? Against a fine group of upstanding corporate executives??

Why does Trent Lott hate America?

Posted by: Hemlock for Gadflies on January 28, 2006 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

mowaca: Good point. But too are irritated by Lotts hypocricy.

Have you heard that the Feds are leaning toward giving relief priority to home owners who lacked flood insurance because they did not live in flood plain, but nevertheless, were wiped out by flood waters? Thats what I heard on NPR.

Posted by: little ole jim from red country on January 28, 2006 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

Mowaca, do you do auto? I'm curious about something. If an anonymous coyote puts up a brick wall on a road and then paints it to look like the road and an unsuspecting road runner runs into that wall (night time, dark stretch of road) is there any insurance companies that don't consider the road runner at fault?

Posted by: tasmaniandevil on January 28, 2006 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

Lawsuits are only frivolous when they're filed by libruhls. Duh!

Posted by: Trent Lott's Hair on January 28, 2006 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

Nice going, State Farm - start a court battle with an allied senator. I'm SURE this was the ONLY option available to you.......

Posted by: plasmastate on January 28, 2006 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

Mowaca, do you do auto? I'm curious about something. If an anonymous coyote puts up a brick wall on a road and then paints it to look like the road and an unsuspecting road runner runs into that wall (night time, dark stretch of road) is there any insurance companies that don't consider the road runner at fault?
Posted by: tasmaniandevil

the wall works as a road for the roadrunner ... it only becomes a wall for the coyote. the roadrunner will never have reason to file a claim.

Posted by: Nads on January 28, 2006 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

So you are concerned about Trend Lott?

How about 40 years of ALITO on the Supreme Court?

Goddamit get your act together!

Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! Filibuster! 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Posted by: b on January 28, 2006 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

Dear Mr. Drum,

I do think that you should put an "update" on this story filling readers in on the identity of Dick Scruggs, trial lawyer extraordinaire--big wheel in the "Ole Miss" group that brought down tobacco. I believe he has also held national offices in ATLA, the trial lawyers' lobbying group.

This does not blunt the point of your note--Lott's hypocrisy is still stunning, and still emblematic of the Republican leadership's fundamental corruption. But Scrugg's day job is too big of a deal not to mention it.

Posted by: Tad Brennan on January 28, 2006 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

is there a cap on these kinds of claims, should he win. isn't the medical $250k. in any event, lott's property was estimated at $750k.

karma is a bitch.

Posted by: linda on January 28, 2006 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

As much as I dislike the Right and anyone who supports them and their anti-human causes, I must say their is a difference between a law suit because you are an idiot who doesn't realize coffee is hot and a victim of a grasping greedy insurance company who refuses to honor it's contracts. This is a case of the Right feeding on the Right. Go Lott Go!!

Posted by: murmeister on January 28, 2006 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

Looks like Senator Lott is smart enough to hire a lawyer who realizes tort reform is a crock. To bad the citizens of Mississippi aren't wise enough to get such representation.

Posted by: schwag of tulsa on January 28, 2006 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

I AM UNFAMILIAR WITH LOTT EVER REFERRING TO PEOPLE WHO LOST THEIR HOME AND AN INSURANCE COMPANY FAILING TO HONOR A PROPER CLAIM AS A 'FRIVILOUS LAWSUIT' .

I GUESS I WILL HAVE TO WAIT A GOOD LONG TIME FOR KEVIN TO SHOW US SUCH A QUOTE FROM THE SENATOR.

MUCH LONGER THEN THE ALITO FILIBUSTER.

Posted by: Patton on January 28, 2006 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

In fact, the Congress already passed limits to class actions lawsuits, the kind Lott had complained were frivilous...so if his claim is as frivilous as the liberals claim, it will be thrown out based on the law Lott passed.

Posted by: Patton on January 28, 2006 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe we should make Congress and the Executive branch withdraw from the Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan and live with the Medicare/Medicaid/Part D rules for their own health care and drugs?

Drugged, by reality.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR on January 28, 2006 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

MAYBE WE SHOULD MAKE EVERYONE ON Medicare/Medicaid/Part D rules win a seat in Congress before we pay for their healthcare.

Posted by: Patton on January 28, 2006 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

Patton, liberals aren't calling Lott's lawsuit frivolous.

Lott called lawsuits by people similarly situated to him frivolous and has worked to elminate legal relief for their claims.

This is not a difficult concept.

Posted by: abjectfunk on January 28, 2006 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

OK, well what if Patton drives his car into the wall before the coyote and road runner get to it? Does it matter if the wall was created through negligence or whether the creator of the wall is known to Patton's claims adjuster.

Posted by: tasmaniandevil on January 28, 2006 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

There is nothing frivilous about suing an insurance company that has denied coverage when you believe you have coverage. That is what civil courts are for.
A frivilous lawsuit is when I sue for 5 million dollars because Alpo rubbed on my chest did not make me irresistable to bitches.

Posted by: Walter E. Wallis on January 28, 2006 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

Lott may have been jerked back into the real world by the hard time he's getting from State Farm but don't expect him to linger there very long. The real world - the one you and I live in - feels very uncomfortable for pols like him. They scurry back into their cozy lobbyist-laden world of comfort and privilege as quickly as they can - the hell with the rest of us.

Posted by: Taobhan on January 28, 2006 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

murmeister posted:
"As much as I dislike the Right and anyone who supports them and their anti-human causes, I must say their is a difference between a law suit because you are an idiot who doesn't realize coffee is hot and a victim of a grasping greedy insurance company who refuses to honor it's contracts."

Would you also say there is a difference between you and an idiot who ignores the fact that this particular victim suffered third degree burns in her thighs and buttocks which required skin grafts and a 7-day hospital stay; the fact that McDonalds coffee was served at 190 degrees -- hot enough to cause third degree burns in 2 to 7 seconds; the fact that McDonalds knew it was dangerous to serve coffee 30 to 50 degrees hotter than other restaurants; the fact that McDonalds had previously been warned by a burn institute not to serve coffee above 130 degrees; the fact that most customers would have no idea McDonalds scalding coffee was far more dangerous than "hot" coffee served anywhere else; and the fact that McDonalds previously settled hundreds of similar claims but refused to pay $20,000 for medical expenses requested by this particular victim? Or are you just a blowhard who doesn't know what he is talking about?

Posted by: murmaid on January 28, 2006 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

the story doesn't make it clear how lott's home was damaged but given its coastal location -- blocks from the gulf -- i'd guess storm surge was the culprit. and if that's the case lott's suit does definitely fall into the frivilous category. no private insurance company anywhere in this country covers storm surge or damage from rising water. that's why god invented the national flood insurance program. the problem with flood insurance is it only covers something like $200,000 in damage. if you've got a problem with that, trent, then either buy extra coverage from a nonstandard carrier or change the law. it's easy to beat up on insurance companies and they deserve much of what they get. but sometimes it's just stupidity by people like trent lott.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on January 28, 2006 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

patton, shush. the grown-ups are talking now.

Posted by: cleek on January 28, 2006 at 6:23 PM | PERMALINK

How da worm do turn!

Posted by: Vinnie on January 28, 2006 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK

A frivilous lawsuit is when I sue for 5 million dollars because Alpo rubbed on my chest did not make me irresistable to bitches.

Posted by: Walter E. Wallis on January 28, 2006 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, sure. So how did your lawsuit come out?

Posted by: bobbyp (drunk as usual) on January 28, 2006 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK

.....and a victim of a grasping greedy insurance company who refuses to honor it's contracts."

Well, that's what in dispuite, is it not? If Trent Lott stupidly did not buy flood insurance and pay the premiums, then no contract was "broken". In that instance, Lott's claim is a classic "frivilous" lawsuit, and he is trying to get something for nothing.

That's why we still have a court system (for a little longer, anyway).

Posted by: bobbyp on January 28, 2006 at 7:08 PM | PERMALINK

murmaid, you're running in a hamster wheel when you try and discredit the "idiot with hot coffee" myth. I had to take a "law for engineers" class a while back, and one of our early speakers mentioned that case and went into the details- elderly woman, coffee far hotter than normal, third degree burns, etc. Two weeks later we had a corporate attorney guest speaker who (surprise!) mentioned the "idiot with hot coffee" scenario as an example of juries gone amuk, and we had a bunch of students nodding and talking about people too stupid to understand that coffee is hot, juries running wild, etc.

Whoever the PR flack for the insurance companies was on that one, they sure did a good job for their employers. It is truly the meme that will never die.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on January 28, 2006 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

"A frivilous lawsuit is when I sue for 5 million dollars because Alpo rubbed on my chest did not make me irresistable to bitches."

Well, it probably would make you irresistable to bitches.

Of course, they would be the kind of "bitch" that has four legs, fur, and possibly very large teeth.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on January 28, 2006 at 7:21 PM | PERMALINK

My favorite part of this story is that Scruggs is Lott's brother-in-law. Given Scruggs's beautifully snarky quote, I imagine that Thanksgiving at that house would be a real treat.

Posted by: Marc J. on January 28, 2006 at 8:20 PM | PERMALINK

Walter E Wallis is a little busy at the moment - His, German Attack Hound, Storm, is sitting on his face eating Alpo off his chest. Can't retrieve his "Garand" to discipline Storm.

Posted by: stupid git on January 28, 2006 at 9:21 PM | PERMALINK

Trent Lott clearly has no sense of irony. None whatsoever. That's what I've always liked about him. Always serious, always prepared to claim what he believes is rightfully his, no matter that he may have been instrumental in denying it to others. Fine man. Salt of the earth. That's what I'm talking about.

Posted by: nixon did it on January 28, 2006 at 9:53 PM | PERMALINK

stupid git- by "German Attack Hound" you mean "dachshund", right?

Posted by: MJ Memphis on January 28, 2006 at 10:18 PM | PERMALINK

Die Weinerdogg iss der rabbithuntre.

Posted by: opit on January 29, 2006 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

Thank you Stupid Git. I was wondering when someone was going to notice the wording of Scruggs' quote -- clearly these in-laws have been on opposite sides of this debate. And in Lott's time of need, Scruggs didn't forget to remind the media which side was which.

Posted by: DC1974 on January 29, 2006 at 1:08 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, Muwaca, The question at issue is: is a storm surge a flood or a hurricane (wind) damage? Much as I'd hate to give the summabitch a nickel, I think the good jurors of Mississippi will agree with the senator. (living in NO in the "sliver by the river," I don't have a dog in this fight, and my own State Farm adjustors have been fair; still, surges are surges and floods are floods: the insurance folks are dead wrong on this>)

Posted by: Brian Boru on January 29, 2006 at 1:39 AM | PERMALINK

What's that saying? A liberal is a conservative who's been mugged by a large company? Something like that.

Posted by: Maynard Handley on January 29, 2006 at 4:47 AM | PERMALINK

Speaking as a lawyer, I think that commenters here are ignoring the ancient legal concept of IOKIYAR, or "It's OK If You're a Republican." What would be a frivolous lawsuit if filed by an ordinary Democratic Mississippi citizen, or Michael Moore, is in fact perfectly meritorious if filed by a Republican Senator. This is well-established black letter law, upheld in numerous precedents and tracing its roots back to English common law, and it's distressing for me to have to explain this concept again and again.

Posted by: Stefan on January 29, 2006 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

As a fellow lawyer, I share Stefan's frustration.

Posted by: nolo on January 29, 2006 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not a lawyer, but I am waiting for the chance to play one on TV, and I heartily concur with the brilliant analysis of Mr. Stefan.

Posted by: Pale Rider on January 29, 2006 at 9:05 PM | PERMALINK

Tom: So if someone is against friviolous lawsuits, and they follow a lawsuit, then they're hypocritical?

Well, none of us are sure what it means to "follow" a law suit, but if someone is against frivolous lawsuits, and say that anytime somebody files against an insurance company its a frivolous lawsuit, and then files such a self-defined frivolous lawsuit, then, yes, they are being hypocritical.

We are glad to have assholes like you to entertain us, though.

Walter E. Wallis: A frivilous lawsuit is when I sue for 5 million dollars because Alpo rubbed on my chest did not make me irresistable to bitches.

Hey, could you link to information on that lawsuit, because I think Fat White Lie has a possible cause of action from the same thing and is looking for a good ambulance-chasing attorney.

Posted by: Advocate for God on January 30, 2006 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

Lott's argument is that his house blew away, rather than washed away.

"There is no credible argument that there was no wind damage to my home in Pascagoula," says Lott.

It's still frivolous - Lott has to actually prove that the damage was not flood-driven, and that is impossible in this case. The 'correct' case is if insurance agents told people that storm surge was covered when it wasn't - that is tortable. It is also, alas, impossible to prove unless someone was so stupid as to write it down and sign it. Lott is angling for a share of a settlement, which is the essential goal of frivolous lawsuits. Lott, as always, deserves the scorn he attracts.

Posted by: rvman on January 30, 2006 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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