At 1:30 the MSSC will hear the case of Safeco Insurance Company v. State of Mississippi ex rel Jim Hood. According to State Farm and Liberty Mutual, the case “involves fundamental and important issues impacting this Court’s established procedures for the assignment of cases in trial courts, the propriety and scope of appointing special masters in unexceptional circumstances, and the procedure for alleviating allegedly overcrowded circuit court dockets.”
Starting in 2015 Jim Hood began suing insurers alleging misadjustment of Katrina wind claims. The first case was against State Farm. It was filed in 2015 and assigned to Judge Tomie Green. The case sat there for three years with Judge Green not having issued any dispositive rulings (surprise, surprise!). She eventually appointed a special master.
Hood filed five more such cases with the cases randomly assigned to the Hinds County Circuit Judges. In the case in Judge Gowan’s courtroom, he issued some rulings against the State including a ruling that the State’s subrogation claims were untimely. Hood then sued Safeco. That case was also assigned to Judge Gowan. A lawsuit against Liberty Mutual was assigned to Judge Green. Safeco and Liberty Mutual filed motions to dismiss based on Judge Gowan’s previous rulings. The State responded by filing a motion in the State Farm case asking to consolidate all of the cases before Judge Green and the special master. Judge Green appointed a special master in both cases even though Safeco was pending before Judge Gowan. Safeco and Liberty Mutual filed interlocutory appeals challenging the rulings and the MSSC granted them.
The State Farm and Liberty Mutual cases have been consolidated with another case in which the State sued seeking repayment of a loan to KiOr, a biofuels startup. The case was assigned to Judge Gowan. After motions to dismiss in the case were briefed, Judge Gowan assigned the case to Judge Green for reasons of judicial economy. The defendnats in that case argue that it was error for Judge Gowan to assign the case to Judge Green and should have submitted it for random reassignment.
State of Mississippi’s brief
Safeco’s rebuttal brief
Vinod Khosla, et al’s brief
Vinod Khosla et al’s rebuttal brief
Watch the argument here