As previously reported in JLC, Texas trial attorney Steve Mostyn has had a major impact on FEMA's administration of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Mostyn has broken a litigation logjam by aggressively pursuing a handful of key homeowner lawsuits in Federal court (see: "Texas Trial Lawyer Mostyn Changing the Game in Sandy Insurance Battle," 2/23/15). After court proceedings uncovered a widespread pattern of covert revision of field reports filed by flood claims investigators, FEMA has taken over management of the cases, apologized to homeowners, and pledged a thorough housecleaning.
On orders from FEMA, the so-called "Write Your Own" insurance carriers, who earn fees by issuing and managing many of the FEMA-backed flood insurance policies, have released thousands of previously unseen documents in flood claims related to Hurricane Sandy — documents that plaintiffs' attorneys say expose even more double-dealing on the part of insurance companies. In response to the revelations, FEMA has begun to offer homeowners whose flood insurance claims have been closed a chance to re-open those claims and take a second look.
But now, trial lawyer Mostyn charges that the insurance companies he's targeting still aren't coming clean. International Business Times reports: "According to court papers filed Monday, the Standard Fire Insurance Company, a subsidiary of Travelers Insurance Company Ltd., did not turn over the documents to homeowners' attorneys until Friday -- more than a year after federal judges in New York first ordered insurance companies to produce all documents related to the homeowners' claims." (See: "FEMA Flood Insurance Provider Accused of Withholding Hundreds of Hurricane Sandy Documents," by Catherine Dunn).
One of the documents, Mostyn said, is particularly meaningful: It's a report originally filed by engineer George Hernemar, a contractor hired to investigate Long Island flood claims by engineering firm U.S. Forensics, but then, according to Mostyn, rewritten in the U.S. Forensics office by managers who did not themselves inspect the home. This is the same pattern that originally drew the ire of federal Magistrate Judge Gary Brown, leading to penalties against the insurance company's legal team — and it's also the same engineer. (For JLC's earlier coverage of the Hernemar story, see: "Judge Slaps Insurance Company Lawyers in Sandy Flood Case," 11/25/14).
"We have now found, almost unbelievably, another Hernemar, altered report that was not turned over to us by the insurance industry," said Mostyn " — like lightning striking the same place twice."