By David Yates
HOUSTON – In a span of only a few days, The Buzbee Law Firm filed hundreds of lawsuits against insurers on behalf of clients impacted by Hurricane Harvey.
The flood of litigation was filed in Harris County District Court and came in the wake of the storm’s two-year anniversary.
From Aug. 21 to Aug. 26, Buzbee Law filed nearly 400 suits, court records show.
Firm founder Tony Buzbee, who hopes to become Houston’s next mayor, told The Record he and his team had hoped to settle the Harvey suits before the two-year statute of limitations ran out.
“We attempted to settle these cases, but were unable to and due to deadlines had to file,” Buzbee said. “We also requested an agreement to continue to try to resolve these, but couldn’t get an agreement with the defendants.”
Around half of the suits were brought against The Texas FAIR Plan Association, which was created by law to provide residential property insurance to persons who are unable to obtain coverage through the voluntary market.
Court records show the vast majority of the cases appear to be filed on behalf of plaintiffs with Hispanic surnames.
Furthermore, there are several attorneys not from Buzbee’s firm listed as co-counsel on the Harvey suits, attorneys who work for the Law Offices of Manuel Solis – a law firm that markets itself to Spanish-speaking individuals and is known for setting up booths at flea markets across Texas in search of clients impacted by severe weather events.
When asked if Solis referred the cases to him, Buzbee declined to name names.
While the question of who exactly referred the cases to Buzbee remains unclear, another query, one being posed by a defendant insurer, has come to light – does the attorney actually represent all the plaintiffs in his lawsuits?
On Aug. 16, Homeowners of America Insurance Company (HOAIC) filed a motion to show authority in a lawsuit Buzbee Law brought on behalf of Jose Ceballos, court records show.
The suit asserts Ceballos’ Houston home was damaged by Harvey and HOAIC “wrongfully refused” his claim for full repairs to the property.
In its motion, HOAIC says Buzbee Law notified them that the firm represents Ceballos. HOAIC attempted to resolve the matter “amicably” but the firm went ahead and filed suit anyways.
HOAIC believes Buzbee’s firm may be prosecuting the suit without authority.
“During the course of this litigation, the Buzbee Law Firm has continued to maintain that it represents Ceballos,” the motion states. “However, despite requests by HOAIC, the firm has failed to produce a copy of its representation agreement with Ceballos.”
In February 2019, HOAIC learned Buzbee Law claimed to represent Patricia Bolli in a separate lawsuit against them, when in fact she had no knowledge of the firm.
“Following service of HOAIC’s petition for Declaratory Judgment, David Watermeier, counsel for Ms. Bolli, contacted HOAIC and advised that Ms. Bolli categorically denied retaining anyone to represent her with claims against HOAIC,” the motion states.
“Recently, Ms. Bolli submitted to an examination under oath in which she re-iterated her position.”
Under oath, Bolli stated that she never spoke with anyone from Buzbee Law and that she never signed an agreement for representation with the firm, according to the motion.
According to Buzbee, however, the motion to show authority is simply a procedural issue that “will be resolved shortly.”
“We have contracts with every client that we filed suit on,” Buzbee said.
A hearing on the issue has been slated for October.