Local judge files Hurricane Ike claim against insurer

David Yates Feb. 25, 2009, 3:37pm

Responsible for filing around a thousand hurricane suits throughout Texas, the Mostyn Law Firm added a Jefferson County official to its list of mounting clients recently when it filed a suit on behalf of a local judge.

Veteran Judge Alfred Gerson, of Jefferson County Court at Law No. 1, alleges Texas Windstorm Insurance Association – the sole area windstorm provider – breached its contract by underpaying his policy claims for damages when Hurricane Ike battered Texas' coast.

Gerson's suit, filed by Mostyn attorney Michael Ramsey on Feb. 6 in Jefferson County District Court, asserts TWIA "wrongfully denied" at least a portion of Gerson's claims for property damages and living expenses, "underpaying" the proceeds of his policy.

During a recent interview, Judge Gerson said he could not comment on his suit.

However, when asked if he might receive preferential treatment from the other county judges who might preside over his suit, Gerson teasingly said no because "they don't like me very much."

And although the Moystn Firm has been saturating the area with Ike radio ads and billboards since the Hurricane trounced Southeast Texas, Gerson said advertising didn't sway him but instead chose the firm to represent him because Michael Ramsey has been a friend of his for 40 years.

In addition to TWIA, the suit also lists claims adjuster Zachary Tate as a defendant.

According to the petition, Gerson submitted his policy claim for roof, water, wind and structure damage to his Beaumont home "immediately after the storm hit" on Sept. 13. He also requested living expenses.

"TWIA wrongfully denied (Gerson's) claim for repairs … even though the policy provided coverage for such losses," the suit states. "Furthermore, TWIA underpaid some of (Gerson's) claims … and to date, TWIA has failed to pay (Gerson) all of (his) additional living expenses."

The suit goes on to allege TWIA and Tate failed to offer Gerson "adequate compensation, without any explanation why full payment was not being made."

The suit says the defendants' conduct is a violation of the Texas Insurance Code, unfair settlement practices, and a violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

The defendants also acted in an unfair method of competition by failing to attempt in good faith to effectuate a prompt, fair and equitable settlement, the suit states.

Gerson is seeking actual, consequential, treble, punitive and exemplary damages, plus attorney's fees.

The case has been assigned to Judge Bob Wortham, 58th District Court.

Case No. A183-236

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