RIO HONDO – Mostyn Law and Gilberto Hinojosa will reap 40 percent of the $1.5 million settlement Rio Hondo ISD obtained from its Hurricane Dolly suit – a percentage five points higher than what Brownsville ISD had to pay, even though Hinojosa, the area attorney who pitched the suit to the school board, said the district was getting the “exact same contract” as Brownsville ISD.
Rio Hondo ISD filed suit against the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association on Feb. 28, 2014, in Cameron County District Court, alleging TWIA failed to properly reimburse the district for damages caused by Dolly in 2008.
The case was slated to go to trial on Aug. 15 but settled beforehand. According to information provided by TWIA, Rio Hondo ISD received a $1.5 million settlement.
A month prior to the filing of the litigation, the district’s Board of Trustees met in a regular session on Jan. 13, 2014, to discuss the imminent lawsuit.
During the meeting, Hinojosa, who was there on behalf of Mostyn Law, can be heard on tape telling school board officials they were getting “the exact same contract” as Brownsville ISD.
At that time, Mostyn Law was already representing Brownsville ISD, which is approximately 30 miles from Rio Hondo ISD, in a Dolly suit against TWIA.
The Record obtained the attorney contracts for both districts, which show Brownsville ISD had a 35 percent contingency fee agreement with Mostyn Law, while Rio Hondo ISD ended up with a 40 percent contingency fee agreement with the firm.
Before Hinojosa began speaking to the Rio Hondo ISD board, he was introduced by the district’s superintendent, Ismael Garcia, who can be heard on tape saying: “We were approached by this law firm.”
While speaking to the Rio Hondo board, Hinojosa referenced Brownsville ISD’s lawsuit against TWIA extensively, saying: “Based upon the history we discovered at Brownsville ISD, we believe that the same lack of a complete investigation and adjustment of your claim probably and likely occurred here in Rio Hondo.
“That’s when we brought that to the attention of Mr. Garcia and some of his staff. We believe based upon what we have seen, (Rio Hondo ISD) … more than likely (has) a significant claim against TWIA.”
In the legal services section of Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 7.02 states a lawyer shall not make a false communication about the services of any lawyer or firm. And Rule 7.03 states a lawyer shall not “seek professional employment concerning a matter arising out of a particular occurrence or event.”
Hinojosa, the current chair of the Texas Democratic Party, works closely with Mostyn Law, founded by Houston attorney Steve Mostyn, on storm litigation brought in the Southeast Texas region.
He did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Mostyn, who made his fortune suing TWIA and insurers in the wake of Hurricanes Rita and Ike, advertises heavily in search of clients after every storm strike in the Lone Star State.
In Brownsville ISD’s TWIA suit, Mostyn Law reached a $7 million settlement with the insurer, according to information provided by TWIA.
Rio Hondo ISD cause No. 2014-DCL-01336-H
Brownsville ISD cause No. 2012-DCL-08605