By: David Yates
AUSTIN – During a recent hearing on the hailstorm lawsuit abuse bill, Mostyn Law’s head of litigation told members of the Texas House Insurance Committee that nobody, even her law firm, likes storm-chasing attorneys.
Ironically enough, however, Rene Sigman’s remarks come only weeks after the Record obtained photographic evidence of Mostyn Law and an associated firm hustling for hail clients at a San Antonio flea market.
Earlier this year, the Record contacted the Law Offices of Manuel Solis, an immigration firm that partners with Mostyn Law on hail litigation, and learned the Houston firm planned to have a booth set up at the Mission Open Air Market in San Antonio on Feb. 26 in search of prospective clients.
The Record acquired pictures of the booth and a handout available to bargain shoppers, which reads: “WARNING: Affected by Hail? If you filed a claim and it was not enough, if you never made a claim … Do not settle for it! We could possibly help you! Trust the one who knows how to win!”
In a small rectangle box on the right side of the handout, the following words can be read in fine print: “Law office of Manuel E. Solis & Mostyn Law Firm intend to take joint responsibility for representing clients…”
You can view the handout here.
In 2016, San Antonio was hit with 30 reported hailstorms, according tostormersite.com.
On April 12, 2016, one of the costliest hailstorms in Texas history swept across Bexar County, greatly impacting the San Antonio area and causing an estimated $2 billion in insured losses, according to the Insurance Council of Texas.
But despite the two firms fishing for San Antonio hail victims, Sigman, a Mostyn Law senior attorney, had no qualms calling out storm-chasing attorneys during the March 28 hearing on House Bill 1774 – a piece of legislation aimed at ending the surge in mass hailstorm litigation.
"Nobody, even our law firm does not like storm chasers, people running in and signing up lawsuits and not giving notice to the insurance company," Sigman testified before committee members.
Following Hurricane Ike in 2008, Steve Mostyn, founder of Mostyn Law, reaped hundreds of millions of dollars suing insurers, creating a model his firm and others now employ after every major hailstorm strike within the state of Texas.
During the hearing, the committee expressed concerns that the Ike model was now used for all major Texas weather events.
Representing Texans for Lawsuit Reform at the hearing, Lee Parsley said mass hailstorm litigation is lawyer driven, testifying that hail attorneys are sending workers to flea markets and going door-to-door with the purpose of informing people that they can get more money for free by suing.
Rep. Larry Phillips, chairman of the committee, briefly mentioned seeing a handout from a flea market and joked that more suits will soon be filed in Bexar County as a result.
The State Bar of Texas declined to comment on the ethics or legality of soliciting clients at flea markets, but did refer the Record to Rule 7.03 (b) of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct.
The rule states: “A lawyer shall not pay, give, or offer to pay or give anything of value to a person not licensed to practice law for soliciting prospective clients for, or referring clients or prospective clients to, any lawyer or firm, except that a lawyer may pay reasonable fees for advertising and public relations services…”
Mostyn Law refuses to comment on Record articles.