Schadenfreude in Southeast Texas

The SE Texas Record Oct. 2, 2010, 6:00pm

A profit-minded mortician might delight in plague, famine and war, but few others see benefit in an oversupply of corpses.

Similarly, an under-worked sheriff concerned about job security might appreciate certain aspects of a crime wave, but law-abiding citizens are not likely to share his enthusiasm.

Even a district court clerk could suffer from such tunnel vision, interpreting a significant uptick in the filing of lawsuits as a harbinger of good times for her office, certainly not so for the targeted defendants.

We have to wonder what District Court Clerk Lolita Ramos was thinking when she waxed ecstatic about the flurry of lawsuits filed in Jefferson County on the second anniversary of Hurricane Ike.

Nearly 500 insurance fraud suits have been filed in the last few weeks, bringing to almost 2,000 the number of Ike-related claims made in Jefferson County since the devastating hurricane's Sept. 13, 2008 landfall. This new suit surge rivals the 2003 record of 700 claims filed in a single month in an effort to escape the limitations on damages established that year by the legislature's enactment of tort reform laws.

Apparently in Ramos' mind, happy days are here again, business is booming, and everything's coming up roses.

"Everyone in this office has just done a stellar job for the taxpayer," she exclaimed. "We're glad to see the business – it's good for the county."

To Ramos, Houston attorney Steve Mostyn must seem like a welcome benefactor. His firm filed a majority of the suits here in Beaumont when he could have filed them closer to home. How thoughtful of him!

Southeast Texans who have to underwrite the costs of this circuit circus must think their tax dollars could be better spent elsewhere, and probably resent the unsavory reputation it creates for their community, but they aren't wearing Lolita Ramos' rose-colored glasses.

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