in Houston, Texas
Texas state windstorm insurance manager: Ike settlement and $39 million bill on legal fees "came out as well as it could"
Tuesday, Jan 11, 2011, 12:04PM CST
By Steve Miller
Hurricane Ike

The Texas Windstorm Insurance Association settled close to 2,800 total loss claims for $189 million in July because “we had to do our best to curtail legal costs and get it done and put it to bed,” said TWIA General Manager Jim Oliver.

“I’m fully aware that some people are going to disagree with what we did,” Oliver said in an interview Monday with Texas Watchdog. “But we’ve really been over this, and I would say it came out as well as it could.”

 

TWIA spent almost $39 million in legal fees defending Ike-related cases, including $5.2 million on the cases that were eventually settled for the $189 million, Oliver said.

 

The episode was the subject of a comprehensive public information request by state Rep. Larry Taylor last fall. Taylor said he was seeking the records in his role as co-chair of a legislative panel overseeing TWIA. His request was opposed by Houston attorney Steve Mostyn, who claimed that granting the request would reveal private information regarding the litigants. The state Attorney General's office ruled the records were public.

 

Oliver said that reform of the settlement process is difficult, and that such a payout could happen again after a future storm.

 

“There’s no simple answer to settling these,” Oliver said. “We could improve things by requiring flood insurance and by having some kind of potential settlement set up in advance. But you have to be flexible because each storm is different.”

 

Oliver sent state lawmakers a letter in December 2009, disparaging the legal efforts of some claimants and defending the work of TWIA agents in the field.

 

Were some of the claimants overpaid?

 

“We have evidence that we shouldn’t pay more than we paid previously, and on the other end we had evidence that we owed more than that," he said.


Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or stevemiller@texaswatchdog.org.


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Photo of Hurricane Ike by flickr user NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, used via a Creative Commons license.

Comments
Meg Meo
Tuesday, 01/11/2011 - 02:46PM

From Jim Oliver, general manager of TWIA:

As I mentioned to Mr. Miller in our interview, the estimate of the total amount paid by TWIA to plaintiffs' lawyers and their clients as a result of litigation related to Hurricane Ike "slab" loss claims is closer to $160 million than the prior estimate of $189 million. The exact total is not yet known since some cases remain open.

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