Hail suits storm Texas courts in August, litigation slips past new insurance law
By: David Yates
HOUSTON – More than one type of storm hit Texas in August, as two law firms flooded courts with more than 200 weather-related lawsuits in an apparent rush to beat the state’s newest tort reform measure.
Last month, insurance trial lawyers for Green & Barton, a Houston law firm, filed a total of 182 lawsuits against insurance companies, court records show.
And because all of the lawsuits were brought prior to Sept. 1, the litigation will not be beholden to the new reforms enacted through the passage of House Bill 1774 – tort legislation aimed at ending weather-related lawsuit abuse.
HB 1774 requires pre-suit notices before litigation can be brought against an insurer and caps interest penalties at 10 percent, down from 18 percent.
The Record contacted the lead Green & Barton attorney for the hail suits, William Jones, who, after speaking with his partners, declined to comment.
The Record sought to learn how the firm came to be in charge of so many weather-related lawsuits and if Jones purposefully filed the mass litigation before Sept. 1 to beat the more stringent regulations imposed by HB 1774.
In all 182 lawsuits brought by the firm, an insurance company is named as the primary defendant, court records show.
The complaints are also worded very similar to each and most seek more than $1 million in damages.
The counties where the suits were filed were all hit by costly storms in the past two years, a list that includes Bexar, Cameron, Collin, Dallas, Hidalgo, Tarrant and Webb.
Webb County saw the vast majority of the suits poured into its courts, with Green & Barton attorneys filing a total of 132 lawsuits from Aug. 1 to Aug. 30, court records show.
However, they weren’t the only active trial lawyers in August.
In a single day, El Paso attorney Omar Maynez filed 32 deceptive trade practice lawsuit against insurers, court records show.
The suits were all filed in El Paso County on Aug. 31 – just one day before HB 1774 went into effect.
Maynez, whose area of practice ranges from automobile accidents to family law, has not yet returned a request for comment.