August 10, 2003
More mold

It's a Joe Nixon triple play in the Chron op-ed section today. An unsigned editorial wags a finger at the Houston Republican, while Clay Robison and John R. Cobarruvias, who appears to be an activist and the founder of Home Owners for Better Building, slap him around as well.

Both Robison and Cobarruvias connect Nixon's mold claim to his work on the evil tort reform bill Propoaition 12. Here's Robison:

Warming up for his new leadership role in the tort war last February, Nixon offered his opinion of how the homeowners' insurance crisis had been "primarily driven by a barrage of increasingly expensive mold claims."

He spoke then in an interview with his own law firm's in-house publication. Phillips & Akers, in which Nixon is a partner, specializes in representing defendants in medical malpractice and other lawsuits seeking damages.

"Between the mid-'90s and 2001 the average mold claim cost increased from $4,000 to $22,000; and by 2001, 70 percent of all mold claims filed nationally were filed in Texas," complained the $300,000 claimant.

Nixon, in the interview, acknowledged that some mold claims -- including, I assume, his own -- were legitimate. But he blamed much of the increase on a "cottage industry" of unregulated mold remediators and "experts," which the Legislature later attempted to address.


Nixon, in essence, contends that he is just one of the "little people" who got what he was owed from a big, bad insurance company.

Maybe, but forgive his constituents -- and other Farmers customers -- if they are a bit suspicious. Legislators can get phone calls answered that most "little people" can't.

"Little people" often have to give up or take their beefs against insurance companies and corporate America to the courthouse, if they can afford the hassle, have a complaint worthy of a lawyer's time and aren't preempted by still another "tort reform" restriction.

Nixon should try wearing their shoes for a while.

And here's Cobarruvias:

In 2001, while hearings and legislation was being crafted to address mold claims, Nixon received more than $300,000 for his own mold claim. Like many mold victims, his life was disrupted while his family spent a year in a crowded apartment during mold remediation at their home. But unlike many victims, he kept silent about the dangers of toxic mold, the cost of remediation, the stress upon his family and the urgent need to address mold contamination.

Nixon had an opportunity to address the Texas Department of Insurance during one of many of historic mold hearings held across the state and in Austin. His position, as a Texas representative, would have validated the claims by other homeowners affected by mold contamination. His own experience of having his family life disrupted, his financial situation threatened and his emotions stretched would have put a halt to the opponents' claims of "hysteria," "frivolous" and "mold is gold."

But he didn't. Instead, he stood silently by while others were foreclosing on their homes and struggling to keep their children in good health, as well as struggling with their insurance companies.

Later in the 2003 legislation session, Nixon sponsored the tort reform bill on behalf of the insurance industry and tort reform groups. These were the same organizations that were claiming toxic mold had driven up the cost of insurance, forcing companies out of business. Members of these organizations testified at the mold hearings, and some were appointed to the Department of Insurance Mold Task Force. All the while, Nixon was collecting $300,000 on his own "legitimate" mold claim and crafting an insurance welfare bill, House Bill 4.

When I first wrote about this story, I said that I could believe Joe Nixon's claim that he had no knowledge of Farmers' attempts to treat him with favoritism. I still believe it. I believe that Joe Nixon really does have no idea that his experience, whatever he may have thought of it at the time, was better, smoother, and more quickly resolved that it would be for a non-legislator. I believe it's never entered Joe Nixon's head that sometimes the only way an average person can get the attention of those "big, bad insurance companies" is to drag their asses to court. I believe he'll come out of this experience with the same faith that limiting jury awards is fairly and properly restoring equity to businesses who are otherwise completely at the mercy of the little people. And I believe he's far from unique in this regard.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 10, 2003 to Scandalized! | TrackBack

You have missed the entire point in the article. Maybe I just should have called Nixon a HYPOCRITE and got it over with.

While his tort reform buddies and insurance lobbyist were calling mold contamination based upon junk science and hysteria, he was collecting on his own. His own lawfirm was saying that high dollar mold claims were the cause of insurance rate increases.

I guess Nixon should know.

Posted by: John Cobarruvias on August 19, 2003 5:00 PM