Houston trial attorney Steve Mostyn is in another fight with the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, this time claiming he has emails showing a culture of racism at the agency.
Mostyn has filed thousands of lawsuits against the quasi-governmental insurer of last resort for coastal communities on behalf of residents and business affected by various hurricanes that have struck the Texas coast. The suits generally accuse TWIA of failing to pay claims in a timely manner or failed to pay an adequate amount to cover storm damage.
While working on a case against TWIA in which he represents the Brownsville Independent School District, Mostyn says he found offensive emails using racist language going to and from TWIA officials.
In an article by the Austin American Statesman, Mostyn said the offensive emails demonstrate a culture of racism that directly led to the refusal to pay legitimate claims for damages to the largely-Hispanic Brownsville Independent School District caused by Hurricane Dolly in 2008. The emails are said to disparage Hispanics, Arabs and African Americans, mainly through crude jokes.
None of the offensive emails dealt directly with the Brownsville ISD case, the Statesman reported.
Alainna Giacone, a TWIA spokeswoman, said in a statement the association “does not agree with the allegations that a culture of racism existed at TWIA.”
“TWIA has firm policies against discriminatory, racist or offensive behavior or communications of any kind by, from or toward any policyholders, employees or anyone else who does business with TWIA,” Giacone said in a Statesman story. “TWIA management and legal counsel will fully cooperate with any investigation initiated by the Texas Department of Insurance.”
But after learning about the emails, Houston attorney Andrew McKinney, who represents TWIA, named one of the agency’s top officials and said he was a racist, according to a Dec. 19 story by Texas Public Radio. McKinney told a South Texas judge that in his opinion, the official’s views on minorities might have played a role in how he handled claims, according to the story.
Mostyn filed a complaint with the Texas Department of Insurance and also requested additional documents including any emails containing racist comments.
TWIA lawyers called it a fishing expedition, but the judge granted Mostyn’s request.
McKinney had subpoenaed the Austin American Statesman on Dec. 20 to obtain the notes, emails and other unpublished information gathered during the reporting of the story, but a Statesman article says he withdrew the subpoena on Jan. 6.