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Law firm sues State Farm opponent Scruggs'

  Insurance  -   POSTED: 2007/03/28 16:16

Jackson law firm has sued millionaire trial attorney Richard Scruggs for allegedly withholding money it claims it was owed for working on Hurricane Katrina insurance-related litigation. The lawsuit was filed March 15 in Lafayette County Circuit Court by Grady F. Tollison Jr. on behalf of the Jones, Funderburg, Sessums, Peterson & Lee law firm in Jackson. No court date has been set for the lawsuit. Tollison has requested a jury trial.

Tollison was not in his office Tuesday and was not immediately available for comment.

Scruggs is one of the nation's wealthiest trial attorneys. In the late 1990s, his Mississippi-based firm earned nearly $1 billion in fees for his part in reaching a landmark $250 billion settlement with tobacco companies.

He used that windfall to finance lawsuits against insurance companies for denying thousands of policyholders' claims after Katrina destroyed their homes.

Scruggs created a legal team, called the Scruggs Katrina Group, to represent the policyholders. SKG's work led to a settlement with State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. that will earn the attorneys about $26 million.

Those legal fees are at the crux of the lawsuit.

Zach Scruggs of Oxford, Scruggs' son and law partner, said Tuesday he could not immediately comment on the lawsuit.

Also named as defendants in the lawsuit are other members of the SKG team.

The lawsuit, which gives only one side of the legal argument, alleges that senior partner John G. Jones and other members of the Jackson law firm deposed witnesses, handled briefs, filed motions and other tasks for Scruggs' group.

Specifically, the lawsuit mentions Jones and his law firm's work on a July 2006 lawsuit, filed by SKG on behalf of Pascagoula police officer Paul Leonard against Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. over denial of Leonard's claim. Jones participated in the questioning of witnesses in that lawsuit.


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