HOUSTON, Feb. 12, 2016 /NEWS.GNOM.ES/ — A Texas appeals court has upheld a Houston law firm’s legal efforts against an insurance company accused of unfair settlement practices.
The 13th Court of Appeals, in a decision issued Feb. 10, backed Mostyn Law after National Lloyds Insurance Co. tried to disqualify the firm from pursuing hundreds of damage suits against the insurer after massive storms in Texas.
The court rejected National Lloyds’ contention that a Mostyn Law attorney had a conflict of interest, only because she previously worked for a law firm that had represented the insurer.
The ruling is significant because it is the first state case to make clear that, except in only a few instances, clients have the right to choose the attorney they want to represent them, regardless of prior affiliation.
“This ruling protects a person’s right to choose the lawyer they want,” said Amber Mostyn. “We are proud that clients seek out our firm because of our successful track record. The insurance companies shouldn’t get to decide who represents our clients. The clients should.”
The evidence showed that the Mostyn attorney, Lauren Chapman, was not involved in civil cases for National Lloyds, the court said, and “her representation of the plaintiffs did not present a conflict of interest requiring her disqualification.”
The opinion, signed by signed by Justice Gregory T. Perkes, denied National Lloyds “relief on the merits regarding its quest for disqualification.”
The appeals court upheld State District Judge Rose Guerra-Reyna, who earlier turned down National Lloyds’ attempt to kick Chapman and Mostyn Law off of more than 400 cases against the insurer. Chapman worked at Andrews Kurth, a Houston firm that did appeals work for National Lloyds, until leaving in March 2015 for Mostyn Law.
In March and April 2012, two devastating hailstorms hit Hidalgo County and surrounding areas, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage. Lawsuits filed against insurance companies for not paying their customers what was owed were transferred to a single court. Amber Mostyn was appointed as the liaison among the customers’ attorneys, defense attorneys and the court.
Mostyn Law, representing hundreds of Texans, has accused National Lloyds of unfair settlement practices and other abuses of its policyholders who suffered damage in hailstorms around the state. Mostyn Law said National Lloyds filed its motion to disrupt those legal efforts by going after Chapman even though National Lloyds acknowledged she was never involved in its cases at Andrew Kurth.
The appeals court decision not only found that Chapman had no conflict in taking on hailstorm clients at Mostyn Law, but it singled out National Lloyds for how it handled its filings. The court noted that after the insurer learned that Chapman was working at Mostyn Law, National Lloyds waited months before asking the trial court judge to rule on possible conflicts. After the trial judge ruled against National Lloyds, the insurer again waited months before appealing the decision to the higher court.
The appeals court pointed to these delays and said, “National Lloyds was not acting with alacrity to avoid any negative consequences arising from Chapman’s employment with” Mostyn Law on the cases. “These circumstances raise a significant concern.”
Amber Mostyn said the timing of the insurer’s actions show that National Lloyds was not sincerely concerned about a possible attorney-client conflict. She said it used unfounded legal maneuvers only to disrupt the proceedings and make them more expensive.
“National Lloyds used flawed legal arguments to attack a lawyer representing Texans. National Lloyds wants Mostyn Law out of these cases. If our clients want us, we’re not going anywhere,” Amber Mostyn said.
About Mostyn Law
The Houston-based firm is one of the country’s leading civil litigation firms, headed by Steve Mostyn and Amber Anderson Mostyn. Their work has focused on representing clients who have been victims of negligence, bad faith or other wrongdoing by medical device manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies and others.
Steve, a graduate of the South Texas College of Law, is a founding member of the Texas Association of Consumer Lawyers and former president of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association. Amber, a graduate of the University of Texas Law School in Austin, has been an adjunct professor at Texas Wesleyan Law School and at South Texas College of Law.
SOURCE Mostyn Law