Firm founders Marc Gravely and Matthew Pearson
SAN ANTONIO – Days after Hurricane Harvey hit, a law firm specializing in suing insurance companies offered to counsel school districts hammered by the storm “behind the scenes” and at “NO COST.”
According to records obtained from Gregory-Portland ISD, Michelle Cruff, Gravely & Pearson’s vice president of client relations, emailed the district’s superintendent, Dr. Paul Clore, on Aug. 31, less than a week after Harvey made landfall.
“Hi Dr. Clore! I hope all is okay with you and this hurricane,” Cruff writes in the email. “I wanted to inform you, in the event you are having issues with the districts carrier, we can assist you behind the scenes at no cost like we did with West ISD during their process after the fertilizer plant explosion.”
Gravely & Pearson filed suit on behalf of West ISD in 2014, estimating the blast caused $50 million in damages.
“I have attached our insurance recovery brochure,” the email continues. “We are assisting other districts with their questions, concerns, etc. Please call me anytime you have questions.”
The “insurance recovery brochure” Cruff sent the district leads with the following sentence: “Gravely & Pearson recognized for the largest insurance verdict in Texas two years in a row, 2011 and 2012, according to Verdict Search.”
Cruff is responsible for building and maintaining client and potential client relationships and coordinating the firm’s overall marketing strategy, according to the firm’s website.
She did not respond to requests for comment.
Gregory-Portland ISD isn’t the only district that received an offer of help.
Records also show on Sept. 5, five days after Harvey finished its devastating crawl along the Texas coast, Arturo Almendarez, Calallen ISD’s superintendent, received an email with the subject line: “HELP from Gravely & Pearson.”
Calallen is a suburb of Corpus Christi in Nueces County.
“The devastation wrought by Hurricane Harvey has affected many Texas communities, including many members of the Texas Association of Community Schools,” the email reads. “You will be looking to your insurance companies/risk pools for help. While our thoughts are with the members of your community in their efforts to repair and rebuild, we also know that insurance policies are often difficult to understand and full of technical language that can be used to potentially limit recovery for damaged property.
“As part of our ongoing efforts to support your community, Gravely & Pearson, L.L.P. is offering, at NO COST, advice and counsel regarding insurance claims or coverage questions for any members of the Texas Association of Community Schools in need as a result of this unfortunate event.
“As always, we are standing by to assist you with legal advice regarding your insurance issues.”
The email was distributed by the Texas Association of Community Schools, which represents smaller districts.
For the past several years, The Record has reported on school districts landing multi-million dollar awards after suing the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association and insurance companies in the wakes of major hurricanes and hailstorms.
In an email response, Gravely & Pearson co-founder Matthew Pearson said the firm does not disclose confidential communications with clients or potential clients.
The Record sought to ascertain how many school districts Gravely & Pearson contacted following Harvey and if the firm now represents any of those districts as a result.