James Old Jr.

In February, district judges presiding over the county's civil litigation formed a Hurricane Rita MDL in an effort to ensure consistent and blanketing rulings are made while each individual suit passes through discovery. The MDL process was designed to save time, but may be about to slow up.

The judges are preparing to sign an order that would "abate discovery and any related deadline or ancillary matters" in hopes of getting surrounding Ike-devastated counties all on the same page.

"We're going to put them (Ike suits) on ice until we get the program going," said Judge Bob Wortham, 58th District Court. "Once we get this train moving it will be beneficial to everyone. We're getting the whole network involved."

General Order No. 2 is a proposed stay order that was submitted by Germer Gertz attorney James Old Jr. on April 14.

In a letter to the county's four civil judges, Old writes that both defense and plaintiff liaisons agree with the proposed stay order regarding "all cases in the Hurricane Ike litigation."

"We are of the opinion that it is necessary to abate discovery and any related deadlines in these matters in order to allow sufficient time for the courts to consult with the attorneys and parties to develop a case management order to apply to this litigation."

Wortham said the proposed order and subsequent program would make sure all counties involved, such as Jefferson, Orange, Galveston and Chambers, would wrap up all Ike litigation expediently and at the same time.

As the Record reported in March, Jefferson County's four civil judges consolidated the hundreds of hurricane suits piling up into a multidistrict litigation (MDL) to assumingly save money and time for all parties involved.

The civil court judges are Judge Bob Wortham, 58th District Court; Judge Gary Sanderson, 60th District Court; Judge Milton Shuffield, 136th District Court; and Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd District Court.

The MDL centers on county residents who sued their insurance carrier for allegedly refusing to pay at least a portion of their hurricane damage claim.

According to Judge Wortham and the MDL order, one court's ruling applies to all cases.

The proposed order, if signed and accepted by surrounding counties, would put all Ike suits on one case management system.

The order equally applies to plaintiffs and defendants (corporate entities and individuals) entangled in Ike litigation and would stay discovery for 60 days.

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