Allstate fights publication of trial lawyer's book

Ann Knef Apr. 27, 2006, 10:04am

David Berardinelli

(Editor's note: The Record previously misidentified the author of "From Good Hands to Boxing Gloves," David Berardinelli, by placing the wrong photograph on this story. The Record regrets the error).

An age-old battle between insurers and the plaintiff's bar over "one of the biggest treasure troves of cash ever created," has reached another epic moment.

The "Good Hands People" are fighting to keep a trial lawyer's book from getting into the hands of litigators nationwide for fear that the lawsuit flood gates would open up on Allstate Insurance.

Attorney David Berardinelli of Santa Fe, N.M. is gearing up to market his book "From Good Hands To Boxing Gloves" to trial attorneys later this year. It describes how a management consulting firm, McKinsey & Co., developed new strategies to minimize payment of claims at Allstate.

A recent article in Business Week Online describes Berardinelli as "something of a bon vivant," the article In Tough Hands At Allstate states. "(He) collects fine wine, has chefs from local restaurants over to cook in his home, and restores classic Porsches. He's also about to become a published author."

Berardinelli's thesis is "a partisan one, written to support 'bad faith' lawsuits," according to Business Week which was provided an advance copy of the book.

There have been hundreds of cases filed against Allstate in Madison County Circuit Court over the past 10 years. At least 30 of the cases are based on allegations of breach of contract. There are also two class action cases pending against Allstate in Madison County.

The controversial book portrays Allstate as employing "institutionalized aggressive practices aimed at enriching investors at the expense of customers," the article states.

Allstate denies Berardinelli's allegations, stating that its "claims revamp" was "just good management." It was attempting to identify exaggerated and fraudulent claims, according to the article.

So far, Allstate's efforts to quash Berardinelli's efforts have failed.

The insurer lost a battle to keep the book from being published in a New Mexico state court in February. And in spite of being ordered by the same court in 2004 to release 12,500 PowerPoint slides created by McKinsey & Co., Allstate has adopted the unusual position of not complying with the order.

It claims it is acting with respectful "civil disobedience," according to the article.

Allstate asserts that the slides and book contain proprietary business secrets.

One of the slides suggests that Allstate treat some of its claimants with "boxing gloves," rather than with its trademark "good hands," according to the article.

"The documents also present a clear risk to the company's reputation," the article states.

"Collectively, the documents present a portrait of business strategies that are at odds with the insurer's carefully cultivated public image. Rather than simply rushing to the scene of an accident and doling out cash, Allstate deploys a variety of systems set in place by McKinsey to make sure it pays the minimum necessary -- and it plays hardball with those who seek more," the May 1 article states.

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