HOUSTON, March 8, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- More than a decade after Hurricane Rita slammed into Southeast Texas, Mostyn Law has helped a local homeowner win a property damage suit against an insurer that a jury says knowingly delayed settling their 2005 claim.
A Texas district court jury in Jefferson County decided March 3, 2017, that David and Sue James should receive $51,000 from their insurer, Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA), for storm damage to their Port Arthur-area home and possessions.
Under current state law, more than $100,000 in statutory penalties and interest will be added to the jury award because of unlawful delays by the insurance company.
The case marks the final civil damage suit between a homeowner and TWIA stemming from Hurricane Rita, which ravaged coastal Texas in September 2005. TWIA is an insurer of last resort for that part of the state.
The decision is significant because the jury found that TWIA "knowingly" acted in bad faith by refusing to pay the claim - which the court defined in the jury's instructions as "actual awareness . . . of the falsity, deception or unfairness of the conduct in question."
Mostyn Law, the Houston firm that represented the couple, said the jury found that TWIA had enough information to confirm its liability and settle the damage claim on Jan. 29, 2007, but that it unfairly and deceptively refused to do so.
Evidence presented at trial before District Judge Justin Sanderson showed that after the massive storm, TWIA sent three different adjusters over a span of a year and a half. One adjuster said the home repair costs would be more than $70,000, but TWIA hid that estimate from the James family and paid only a fraction of the claim.
The hidden estimate wasn't discovered until after Mostyn Law sued in 2007 and demanded it. As TWIA delayed their claim to repair the storm-damaged home, the James family lived in a travel trailer in their front yard.
The jury's verdict also is notable because it recognized that because TWIA acted in bad faith, the company should pay the cost of the James' attorneys, who had been involved in the case for a decade. The jury awarded more than $130,000 to the James family as reasonable and necessary fees for their attorneys.
Gregory F. Cox, Mark Sparks and Justin Burrow of Mostyn Law represented the James at trial. "The James family is pleased with the result after a long and arduous wait. They're glad to have closure and finally put this behind them," Cox said.
"TWIA knowingly violated the Texas Insurance Code," he said. "That's why penalties and interest are appropriate here. Currently, Texas law protects homeowners from insurance companies trying to 'starve you out.'"
The James, who live in the small community of Groves, said in the suit that their treatment reflected TWIA's business practice for handling such claims, designed to benefit the company at the expense of its customers.
The case is styled A180332, State District Court, 60th Judicial District, Jefferson County.
About Mostyn Law
The Houston-based firm is one of the country's leading civil litigation firms, headed by Steve Mostyn and Amber Anderson Mostyn. Their work has focused on representing clients who have been victims of negligence, bad faith or other wrongdoing by medical device manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies and others.
Steve, a graduate of the South Texas College of Law, is a founding member of the Texas Association of Consumer Lawyers and former president of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association. Amber, a graduate of the University of Texas Law School in Austin, has been an adjunct professor at Texas Wesleyan Law School and at South Texas College of Law.
SOURCE Mostyn Law