The End of an Era for One Storm-Chasing Lawyer
TLR spent the 2015 and 2017 legislative sessions working to fix the problems storm-chasing lawyers were creating for Texas property owners. Fortunately, the Texas Legislature passed a common-sense solution in 2017 to make it harder for these lawyers to file unnecessary lawsuits, while maintaining the strongest insurance consumer protections laws in the United States for Texas property owners.
We had heard credible stories since late 2013 of lawyers trolling for clients following hail and wind storms. In many places, lawyers were ignoring criminal laws and ethical rules by paying roofing contractors and public insurance adjusters to go door-to-door to solicit clients.
The solicitors were promising homeowners they could get a lot more money from their insurance companies if they would just “sign here.” In many cases, they never disclosed that they were working on behalf of an attorney. Then the lawyers would step in—sometimes filing 20 or more lawsuits at a time—claiming all kinds of nefarious actions by the insurance companies. In many instances, the insurance companies had paid the homeowners’ claims months before, and having heard nothing more from the homeowner, closed the file.
Even worse, we repeatedly heard that many homeowners were completely surprised to learn they had hired a lawyer or filed a lawsuit against their insurance company. In other words, they were signed up for legal services without their knowledge or consent.
For several years, Kent Livesay was one of the most prolific of these storm-chasing lawyers. He filed literally hundreds of dubious storm-related cases, mostly in South Texas. But not without consequences.
In August 2016, the State Bar of Texas suspended Livesay’s law license for misconduct related to several weather-related lawsuits he had pursued. He was barred from practicing law in Texas throughout 2017.
Then about a year later, in June 2017, Livesay was indicted by a Tarrant County grand jury for fraud related to lawsuits filed from 2014 to 2016 against insurance companies without the homeowners’ knowledge or consent.
In January 2018, the State Bar of Texas suspended Livesay’s license for another year for ambulance chasing in El Paso and North Carolina.
Recently, Kent Livesay pleaded guilty in Tarrant County to insurance fraud and barratry (ambulance chasing). The fraud aspect of his wrongdoing included filing lawsuits on behalf of homeowners who had not retained him as their attorney. He was sentenced to five years in prison.
As part of his plea, Livesay agreed to divulge the details of the entire fraud and barratry scheme he participated in. He has implicated other attorneys, roofing contractors and public insurance adjusters in a web of solicitation that flies in the face of ethical and legal standards for lawyer conduct.
The wheels of justice turn slowly. Livesay started down this path in 2012. But eventually, his scheme to cheat consumers and defraud insurance companies is coming to an inglorious end.
But Kent Livesay is just one of a host of bad actors. We hope that this outcome, coupled with the Legislature’s actions in the past two sessions, brings us closer to end the era of storm-chasing lawsuit abuse.