Although Steve Mostyn has finally responded to allegations he ditched his client after a Hurricane Ike suit soured, the presiding judge refused to sever and abate the third-party claim, ensuring the Houston attorney’s alleged conduct will be on display when and if the case goes before a jury.
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 bogus 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.
On Jan. 4 Rankin Road filed a motion for substitute service when Mostyn failed to respond, avowing that a process server attempted to serve Mostyn four times at his Houston law office.
On Jan. 20 the Mostyn Law Firm and Amber Mostyn answered the suit, asserting a general denial and joining the other third-party defendants in their motion to sever and abate Rankin Road’s claims, court records show.
Defendants Templeton and Russell had filed a motion to reconsider the court’s order denying their motion to sever and abate on Dec. 9, arguing that any liability Mostyn may have to Rankin must be determined in a separate trial after the Lloyds’ claims against it have been resolved.
Declining to remain silent on the matter, Lloyds filed a response to the motion on Jan. 21, contending Rankin Road would be unable to put on evidence of its defense if the case were to proceed to trial without Mostyn.
“Indeed, if the claims against Mostyn were severed, the jury charge would make no mention of Mostyn at all and Rankin Road would be unable to have its defense assessed by a jury,” Lloyds’ response states.
“Rankin Road would then be forced to either admit to (Lloyds’) case, ensuring a judgment for (Lloyds) but preserving the ability to pursue Mostyn, or dispute (Lloyds’) case, but allow Mostyn to use these defensive admissions in the subsequent trial.”
Lloyds argued that if the court had severed the claims against Mostyn, Rankin Road would not have had a vehicle to ask the jury to apportion fault.
“This, undoubtedly, is the strategy,” the response stated.
Judge Debra Ibarra Mayfield, 165th District Court, signed an order denying the Mostyn defendants’ motion to reconsider severing on Jan. 25, finding their argument had no merit, court records show.
The case is set for trial in December.
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.
The Mostyn Law Firm is represented by Murray Fogler, attorney for the Houston law firm Fogler, Brar, Ford, O’Neil & Gray.
Case No. 2010-25885