Gerald Neilson was National Flood's "go to" lawyer for as long as I can remember. While I personally have gotten along with him, his never bending stance towards settlement and reliance on the most conservative aspects of the National Flood Insurance Act have made him the enemy of many of my colleagues. His firm's stance regarding discovery was maddening. A filing by an ethics law professor shows that Gerald and his law firm may be in deep and serious hot water regarding altered engineering and adjuster reports.
Michael Ross is an expert in attorney ethics. He teaches litigation ethics at law schools and over 200 continuing education courses. His conclusion about what should happen to Neilson and others in his firm is chilling:
- Referring Nielsen to the Chief Judge of this Court for referral to the Attorney Disciplinary Committee of this Court for disciplinary action.
- An appropriate disciplinary sanction to be imposed by the Attorney Disciplinary Committee would be to permanently bar Nielsen from appearing in any case in this District.
- Referring Nielsen to disciplinary bodies in the State of Louisiana for disciplinary action.
- Referring Nielsen to the Clerk of the New Jersey District Court based upon his and his firm’s conduct in Uddoh v. Selective Ins. Co. of Amer., Docket No. 2:13-cv-02719 (D.N.J.).
- Referring Nielsen and NCT to the Office of the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York for investigation and potential prosecution of possibly criminal conduct in connection with, among other things, fraudulent alteration of engineering reports and knowingly making false and misleading statements to the Court, to FEMA and to other litigants and their counsel.
I never like to see people I know and have some collegiality with get in such serious trouble. On the other hand, I hate to have evidence hidden from me which harms my clients and myself. The whole system of civil justice breaks down when attorneys lie and cheat to win their cases.
One of my contentions in Sandy litigation has been that the estimates of damage will show far more changes from the initial draft to the final one turned over than engineering reports. Even after asking Gerald Neilson and his firm for the first drafts of adjusters reports, he refused to do so and told me I should subpoena them. My response to him and his firm was obvious--'guys, are you putting your head in the sand and not questioning whether what you are showing me is an honest estimate of damage? Don't you want to know?"
Many of my colleagues and myself repeatedly complain about insurance defense attorneys playing "hide the ball" when it comes to turning over documents. While Neilson certainly has a right to defend himself regarding these accusations, this filing should be a warning to all.