While the U.S. economy may have sputtered a bit last year, Southeast Texas trial lawyers kept busy in 2009, filing 2,601 new lawsuits in Jefferson County District Court – upping their '08 totals by roughly 30 percent.
In 2008, local plaintiffs lawyers managed to drum up 1,985 lawsuits. That number jumped by 619 in '09.
Out of the 2,601 suits filed, 628 were Hurricane Ike suits filed by Golden triangle residents and business owners, who allege insurance providers made low-ball offers after the mammoth tempest marched through Southeast Texas in September 2008.
And the law firm cornering the insurance litigation market, almost monopolizing Ike suit filings in '09, was Houston-based Mostyn Law firm. Mostyn lawyers filed approximately 359 new Ike suits in Jefferson County, capturing 57 percent of hurricane filings.
Runners up included the Rocky Lawdermilk Law Firm and Snider and Byrd, with both firms collectively filing around 200 Ike suits.
Since Hurricane Rita made landfall in 2005, law firms like attorney Steve Mostyn's have routinely saturated Southeast Texas with TV and newspaper ads, urging homeowners to contact law offices if they are dissatisfied with their insurance policy payments.
Statements such as, "It's been over a year now since Hurricane Ike devastated Southeast Texas ... if you are like so many and are now experiencing problems with your insurance claim, then know we are on stand-by to help you as we have thousands before you," can be found on the Web home page of Mostyn Law Firm.
The Jefferson County District Clerk's Office became home to 2,598 lawsuits in 2007 of which 230 were filed by Mostyn and his team of attorneys on behalf of Hurricane Rita victims. That number dropped by a few dozen in 2008, before exploding by 129 suits in 2009.
In fact, in the past three years no law firm has filed more suits in Southeast Texas than Mostyn's. Between Jefferson and Orange counties, the Mostyn Firm has filed more than 1,000 hurricane suits since 2007.
The majority of the hurricane suits filed are against the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association.
Area residents have no option except to obtain windstorm coverage through TWIA, since insurance companies like Allstate and State Farm pulled up their windstorm stakes after Hurricane Rita.