Judge Keeps TWIA Ike Settlement Information Private for Now

Galveston County Judge Susan Criss on Sept. 27 put on hold a Texas state representative’s request for information from the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association regarding a $189 million settlement in a class action lawsuit stemming from Hurricane Ike.

The Texas Tribune reported that Criss granted a temporary restraining order that prevents TWIA from providing information about the lawsuit to State Rep. Larry Taylor, a Republican who is on the House Insurance Committee, is co-chair of Texas Joint Windstorm Insurance Legislative Oversight Board and represents District 24 in Galveston County.

Taylor originally submitted an open records request to TWIA for information related to the class action lawsuit on Sept. 8, 2010. A Galveston County district court placed a temporary restraining order on that request, after which Taylor made some revisions and submitted it again.

The suit in question was settled in mid-July between TWIA and some 2,400 Galveston County homeowners and TWIA insureds whose properties were completely destroyed by the Sept. 13, 2008, hurricane.

A lawyer for plaintiffs in the class action, J. Steven Mostyn, responded in a letter to TWIA CEO Jim Oliver requesting that the association not release the information sought by Taylor.

Mostyn asserted that the information in the settlement is confidential and suggested that Taylor was over-stepping his authority as a state representative in requesting information about a confidential settlement.

He also asserted that Taylor’s reason for requesting the information is politically motivated, as Mostyn is a well-known political donor to the Democratic Party. Mostyn stated in the letter that the timing of Taylor’s request “strongly suggests that he his using his position on the legislative oversight committee for non-legislative political and partisan purposes.”

Taylor has said the settlement details are important for legislators as they “consider legislation to improve how TWIA can handle these types of claims in the future without the need for litigation by covered claimants. Having TWIA policyholders wait for over 2 years to find out how much their Windstorm Insurance is going to pay is not acceptable. Additionally, if it is true that $86 million of TWIA funding was used to pay attorneys, rather than rebuild people’s property, that too is unacceptable.”