McALLEN – For the second year in a row Texas’ Hidalgo County, arguably the birthplace of mass hailstorm litigation, has been named a “Judicial Hellhole” by the American Tort Reform Association.
ATRA issued its 2016-2017 Judicial Hellholes report on Dec. 15, ranking Hidalgo County dead last on the list at No. 9.
“It’s hailing lawsuits in this agricultural county along the Rio Grande, as plaintiffs’ lawyers file thousands of lawsuits accusing insurers of not paying up for storm damage,” the report states.
“As a result, insurers are leaving and premiums are climbing. Judges are wising up to the game and beginning to call out lawyers for bringing groundless cases, and lawmakers are poised to enact much-needed reforms.”
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick recently announced hailstorm lawsuit reform was one of his top priorities this upcoming legislative session and the Texas Legislature has already heard testimony on the issue.
“And ATRA’s sources in Austin say a strong coalition of lawmakers is gearing up to move a storm lawsuit reform measure,” the report states. “In the interests of both justice and affordable insurance, here’s hoping they can push sound legislation over the goal line.”
The report cites several news articles from various publications and analysis from industry experts, all of which lead to ATRA issuing a “Hailstorm Lawsuit Warning” for Hidalgo County, “that may be extended to similarly plaintiff-friendly jurisdictions elsewhere across the Lone Star State where several thousand hail damage lawsuits are now being filed annually.”
“Bad weather happens, especially in Texas and other Gulf Coast states. Often it’s hurricanes that cause most of the damage in this region. But with the hurricane front relatively quiet since Ike in 2008, knock wood, the flood of storm claims more recently has been driven largely by alleged hailstorm damage,” the report states.
“And Hidalgo County remains at the eye this storm. More than half of the roughly 21,000 hailstorm suits filed in Texas between 2012 and 2015 were filed in this largely agricultural county at Texas’s southern tip along the Rio Grande.
“And in 2016 it remained a favorite jurisdiction for hailstorm plaintiffs’ lawyers, particularly for Steve Mostyn and his associates at the Houston-based Mostyn Law Firm.”
For the past year, the Record has reported on State Farm’s success fighting Mostyn Law hail claims in court.
Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez put Mostyn Law on notice for unleashing a “hailstorm” of “baseless claims” upon her court in McAllen, Texas.
The other Judicial Hellholes named in the report include the city of St. Louis, California, New York City (asbestos litigation), the Florida Supreme Court and South Florida, New Jersey, the Illinois counties of Cook, Madison and St. Clair, Louisiana and Newport News, Virginia.