Several county school districts, cities and a community college are headed to court in an attempt to recover about $55 million their attorney says they are due from the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association for damages caused by Hurricane Ike.

The cities of Santa Fe, Dickinson and La Marque; and the Santa Fe, Dickinson and Texas City school districts, along with College of the Mainland, each have lawsuits pending in Galveston County district courts against TWIA.

Add an estimated $11 million stemming from a 2013 hailstorm owed to the financially struggling La Marque school district and the eight entities have yet to recoup about $66.3 million, their attorney Tony Buzbee said.

Buzbee’s firm is also handling cases on behalf of Chambers County and the Anahuac school district.

“There’s clear bad faith by TWIA in these claims,” Buzbee said. “There are some really nasty things involved in this that will give the public a perception of our state and our government that it is not doing what it is supposed to do.”

Buzbee, who in October was asked by attorney Shaun Hodge to join the litigation of the cases, said he was amazed that the cases have gone nowhere seven years after Ike made landfall. After the entities were unable to get their claims paid, lawsuits were filed between 2002 and 2013, court records show.

“There’s been delay after delay after delay,” Buzbee said.

In an effort to get the cases settled, Buzbee said he met face-to-face in late January with Texas Insurance Commissioner David Mattax. The Texas Department of Insurance oversees the Texas Windstorm Association.

The response Buzbee got was “appalling,” he said.

“We were told (by the Texas Department of Insurance) that they had visited with TWIA and TWIA’s lawyers and they were ‘satisfied’ with the way the cases were being handled,” Buzbee said. “And that they were confident in the process and (the department) would not be engaged in it or be involved in any way.”

Neither the Texas Department of Insurance nor TWIA responded to The Daily News.

The Texas City school district has the biggest tab owed by Texas Windstorm at $20.5 million, according to estimates provided by Buzbee.

The Dickinson school district had an estimated $13 million in damage while Santa Fe school district had about $9 million in damage. College of the Mainland is due $7.8 million, according to Buzbee’s estimates.  

“These are our internal estimates,” Buzbee said. “We are not allowed to see our (court) appointed appraiser’s estimate or TWIA’s appraiser’s estimate.”

Buzbee said based on his firm’s past work on TWIA cases “our estimates are generally spot on.”

Buzbee said in addition to the massive delays to settle the claims, documents show internal communications of racist, lewd and sexist comments. The comments contained in emails are directed at Hispanics, African-Americans and women by top TWIA officials and its lead adjuster show a “pattern of bad faith.”

Those comments include the use of the N-word to refer to African-Americans, comments about the work ethics of Hispanics and comments about meeting certain women just to see the size of their breasts.

All of the documents with those comments were written at a time when TWIA was reviewing or processing the claims of the entities Buzbee now represents.

Most of those officials are either no longer with TWIA or dead. But at least one of those involved works for the Texas Department of Insurance, Buzbee said.

Many of those documents were first exposed during earlier TWIA claim court cases.

At the heart of the cases, though, Buzbee said, was the lack of response by Texas Windstorm to pay legitimate claims.

“The public entities need the money,” Buzbee said. “They are entitled to the money and have been waiting for a long time for the money.”

Texas Windstorm’s responses to Hurricane Ike claims have long been the source of controversy. Investigations into the quasi-government entity revealed corruption and bad faith by those at the top levels of the organization.

Recently. state Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) introduced legislation that would help school districts recoup the added expense of paying for windstorm insurance premiums. That’s well and good, Buzbee said, but he blasted state leaders for not doing enough to help school districts and other public entities that still have outstanding claims.

Trial dates for the eight Galveston County cases have not been set. While the cases are in different courts, 56th District Court Judge Lonnie Cox is handling the pretrial hearings for all the cases.

Buzbee expects that the city of Dickinson, which is estimated to be owed about $1.5 million, will be the first to go to trial. The city of Santa Fe may also be among the first to go to trial, he said.

Others, such as Texas City ISD, are more complex and may take a bit longer to get before a jury, he said.


TWIA bill

The Buzbee lawfirm estimates that about $66.3 million is owed to local entities in Texas Windstorm claims

Cities    Estimate    Court

La Marque    $2.5 million    405th District Court

Dickinson    $1.5 million    122nd District Court

Santa Fe    $1 million    56th District Court

Education     Estimate    Court

Texas City ISD    $20.5 million    56th District Court

Dickinson ISD    $13 million    405th District Court

La Marque ISD    $11 million*    405th District Court

Santa Fe ISD    $9 million    212th District Court

College of the Mainland    $7.8 million    10th District Court

* La Marque ISD claim is for 2013 hailstorm damage

Source: Buzbee Law Firm

Contact Mainland Editor T.J. Aulds at 409-683-5334 or tjaulds@galvnews.com.

(4) comments

Reggie Barnett

I think they are going about this wrong. TWIA was intended to be the insurer of last resort for Tropical Named Storms and Hurricanes. It was never intended to be the replacement for Hail or Tornadoes. The insurance companies excluded windstorm and included Hail and tornadoes knowing their liability for Hail and Tornadoes is greater inland than on the coast. It forced TWIA to cover Hail on the coast while those in Dallas didn't have it excluded there. The way to fix it? Make it mandatory for Insurers in Texas to cover Hail and non Tropical storm winds, just like they do all over the state. On the coast TWIA would only have liability for a catastrophic tropical storm. It would work. Tropical storm coverage could be included to the tier 2 and 3 counties so more people could choose to self insure or buy from TWIA.

Carol Dean

Let's hope that the attorney representing local cities and school districts does not have their case assigned to the district court of Patricia Grady. From a look at Grady's campaign finance reports supporters of the insurance lobby (I mean profession) paid up to $200,000 to buy her that position. It is very possible that the "scales of justice" may be already tilted in favor of TWIA if this suit is heard by Ms. Grady.

PD Hyatt

TWIA owes money to everyone that they screwed out of FAIR compensation during IKe and other named storms and that doesn't even include the screwing that you take on hail storms....TWIA is a Total Worthless Insurance Agency

Dorothy Holt

Your legislators invented the TWIA back in 1972. They tell them what you think.

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