HURRICANE IKE LITIGATION UPDATE
There have been several recent developments in the Hurricane Ike docket in Harris, Jefferson and Ft. Bend Counties. In Harris County, coordinating Ike judge Mike Miller recently indicated he may be expanding master discovery requests for production numbers 5 and 16. These requests seek written procedures or policies (including document(s) maintained in electronic form) that pertain to the handling of windstorm claims in Texas and a carrier’s internal newsletters, bulletins, publications and memoranda relating to policies and procedures for handling Texas Hurricane claims. The requests are currently limited to the period from August 1, 2007 – August 31, 2009; however, Judge Miller is considering expanding this to 2010. He has been asked by the Mostyn Law Firm to expand the parameters towards Cypress Texas Lloyds. Judge Miller has stated if he agrees to do this for one carrier, it will have to apply to all. This issue is currently under advisement.
While Judge Miller has previously and routinely refused to abate any cases during the appraisal process, on Monday, January 23rd, he stated that all proposed orders for appraisal shall include a deadline for completion. Judge Miller signed an order which stated: “If, for any reason, the appraisal process is not completed by __[date] , the Court hereby ORDERS that the case will be abated until the date on which the umpire’s award is signed.” All future appraisal orders should follow suit in Harris County according to Judge Miller.
In Fort Bend County, Judge Brady Elliot recently entered an order requiring Cypress Texas Lloyd’s to produce all emails for all employees on any subject matter sent or received between September 12, 2008 and January 13, 2012. Counsel for The Mostyn Firm has indicated they intend to seek similar email discovery from all carriers in all Hurricane Ike cases. Cypress Lloyd’s has indicted its intentions to seek mandamus protection from the Court of Appeals.
Finally, last Friday morning, State Farm obtained an emergency stay from the Houston 1st Court of Appeals relieving it of an obligation to produce many thousands of documents which it had been ordered to produce the prior evening by the Galveston coordinating Ike judge Susan Criss and the production deadline was 10:00 a.m. the following morning. When State Farm’s request for more time to comply with the production order was denied, State Farm sought and obtained relief from the 1st Court.