More than a month after being named in a third-party complaint, Houston attorney Steve Mostyn still has not responded to allegations he ditched his client after a Hurricane Ike suit soured.
After Ike ravaged his business, Tony Nouri sought $120,000 from his insurance provider, Underwriters at Lloyds of London, which was only willing to pay about a quarter of that amount.
In turn, Nouri hired Mostyn, who purportedly demanded millions from the insurer then allegedly abandoned his client once the carrier called the claim fraudulent and fought back, according to court documents.
Claiming he is now on the hook for Lloyd’s substantial defense costs, Nouri’s business, Rankin Road, filed a first amended third-party petition against Mostyn, the Mostyn Law firm, Mitchell Templeton, Sean Russell, Michael Ramsey and Amber Mostyn on Dec. 1 in Harris County District Court.
However, court records show Mostyn has yet to respond to the complaint.
On Jan. 4 Rankin Road filed a motion for substitute service of process on third-party defendant Mostyn Law Firm.
The motion states that a process server attempted to serve Mostyn four times at his Houston law firm but the receptionist stated that Mostyn travels a lot.
Mostyn was also served via certified mail with return receipt requested, which was not returned.
Rankin Road is asking the court to authorize it to serve the Mostyn Law Firm by leaving a true copy of the citation and attached petition with anyone more than 16 years of age at 3810 W. Alabama, Houston, Texas 77027.
The petition against Mostyn stems from a complaint filed in 2010 on Rankin Road’s behalf against Underwriters at Lloyds of London, Gulf Coast Claims and two individuals.
The Mostyn Law Firm, which has reaped hundreds of millions of dollars from insurance providers in the aftermath of Ike, represented Nouri at the time.
According to the petition against Mostyn, Nouri and his business submitted a claim for insurance proceeds after Ike made landfall on Sept. 13, 2008, seeking a little more than $120,000 to repair his business. Lloyds paid $32,988.70, claiming the other damages sought were preexisting or unrelated.
In turn, Nouri responded to a Mostyn advertisement, hoping for a quick and fair resolution. Nouri, who had previously never been involved in civil litigation, says he was unfamiliar with the process, so he handed over all documents related to the matter to Mostyn and put his trust in the Houston law firm.
“Prior to filing suit, Mostyn sent an initial demand letter to (Lloyds) on behalf of Rankin Road for $3.2 million,” the petition states. “The $3.2 million claim was entirely a creation of Mostyn, made without Rankin Road’s knowledge, input or consent.
“Nouri asked why Mostyn was making a $3.2 million dollar claim for repairs to his building that he bought in 2000 for $850,000. Mostyn’s agents told him to trust his attorneys.”
Nouri maintains Mostyn never bothered to cure his lack of understanding or inform him of the possible consequences, asserting that he had very little communication with his lawyers throughout the litigation process.
At Mostyn’s instruction, Nouri says he never spoke to the experts the law firm sent to inspect his property, yet the experts included “boilerplate language” in their reports stating that they met with the “homeowner” (even though it was a commercial building) and that Nouri identified the damage caused by the hurricane.
Nouri goes on to allege the experts included damages that were already paid for from a separate claim, and that Mostyn continued to press for millions of dollars, having Nouri, an “unsophisticated litigant,” sign off on discovery responses without reading and understanding them.
Seeking court costs and attorney’s fees, Lloyds and the other defendants filed a counterclaim on Jan. 21, 2014, alleging Rankin Road’s Ike claim was fraudulent, groundless and brought in bad faith or for the purpose of harassment, court records show.
On Jan. 29, 2015, Mostyn filed a motion to withdraw as Nouri’s counsel, citing “an alleged conflict of interest,” the petition states.
Nouri is accusing Mostyn and his attorneys of negligence and breach of fiduciary duty.
He is suing for actual damages, attorneys’ fees and the economic damages he should have been able to recover from the insurance defendants.
Tamara Madden, attorney for the Houston law firm Johnson, Trent, West & Taylor, represents him.
Nouri is also represented by the Law Office of Steven M. Duble.
Case No. 2010-25885