I wasn’t going to write anymore about the Garth Brooks vs. Integris case but today’s Sunday Oklahoman made that impossible, I’m afraid.  The attempt to salvage Integris’s brand and image in today’s paper has only made things worse for them.  The notion that poor little Integris was somehow victimized by Garth Brooks is ludicrous.  The idea that Integris was not able to present evidence to the effect that efforts to return Brook’s donation subsequent to the suit’s filing is also ludicrous.  That evidence was presented.

Bad faith.  That’s the phrase that describes this case, just as it is the phrase that describes the disagreements that occur between insurance companies and those they insure.  Let’s say that your house burns down.  You file a claim with your insurance company.  They drag their feet.  This goes on for a year.  Then two years.  You have exhausted every remedy short of suing the insurance company.  You can’t seem to get through to them and no insurance check is forthcoming.  

You sue the insurance company.  The insurance company calls you immediately and offers you the agreed upon amount.  If you take it, there have been no consequences for the stalling tactics your insurance company has engaged in.  There would be no risk, no down side, for the insurance company to act this way with everyone, other than assume the reputation of an unethical business operation.  The insurance company could gamble that some of their clients would never sue and no money would have to be paid out.  Or they could just wait until a suit is filed and all they would owe is what they were supposed to pay anyway.  That is the purpose of punitive damages.  These damages, in excess of the original dollar amount, serve to keep folks honest, make them honor agreements and contracts.

Like a stalling insurance company, Integris acted in bad faith.  They were more than happy to give Brooks his money back after the suit was filed.  Brooks knew, however, that that would let Integris off the hook for how they had acted, how they had stalled him.  The email revealed during the case backs this up, as the intention of whoever was calling the shots at the Integris Foundation was to make Brooks “work hard as hell” to get his money back.  Think of Brooks and Integris at a poker match.  Integris has nothing and Brooks has a straight flush.  Integris goes “all in” to bluff Brooks.  He calls. Now Integris wants to back up a play and take back their “all in” bet.  Too late. 

Big outfits like Integris pick on little folks and get away with it most of the time.  I guess they thought they were bigger than Garth.  Their attempt in today’s paper to salvage their image has only served to dunk their brand in the sewer once again.

G. Keith Smith, M.D.