The Hurricane Katrina insurance coverage litigation along the Mississippi Coast was a once in a lifetime event for most attorneys. For me, it was obvious from the first day we landed at Stennis airport that this was where the Super Bowl of insurance coverage litigation was going to be waged for the next several years. With a lot of help from Florida panhandle trial attorneys Larry Keefe and Sparky Lovelace (Sparky quickly left our venture and started work with his long time friend, Dickie Scruggs), we decided to build two law offices–one in Bay St. Louis and the other in Gulfport. Teenage friends of mine who were local attorneys without law offices as a result of Katrina, Randy SantaCruz and William Weatherly, agreed to sign on with our efforts after Cindy Cady recruited them. With insurance claim denials and low payments running rampant, we were overworked with cases and clients. We already had transferred Jason Ciofalo from Tampa to work full time in Mississippi, and Deborah Trotter was working full time with Randy Santa Cruz out of the Bay St. Louis office.
I also had major cases in Florida which were caused by the four historic Florida hurricanes occurring in 2004 and then the forgotten Hurricane Wilma in 2005. I needed to find one additional attorney dedicated to my Mississippi clients on cases I was personally working on. Tina Nicholson then came into my life.
Her interview was unique. I asked her what her dream was to accomplish as an attorney. She told me the practice of law had not been everything she hoped it would up to that point of her career. So, her dream was to find a legal job that would allow her time in the evening to write a novel. Character is important for a lawyer and, combined with her obvious legal writing skills, I felt she would do fine working directly with me, even if her dedication did not seem to be what we expected from the attorneys in our firm.
Like a bee to honey, Tina Nicholson took to the representation of Mississippi Gulf Coast policyholders. She is tireless and relentless in her advocacy. She made me look far too good, far too often. As is often the case, the people doing the yeoman’s job never get enough credit.
Slabbed paid a nice little tribute to Tina in a recent post, "Chip Merlin’s Gulf Coast Case Law Update Provides Context for SLABBED Update on Recent Developments in Selected Katrina Cases UPDATED." Slabbed noted:
Considering these points, it’s only natural the both Politz v Nationwide and Hillier v USAA settled as both insurers went far beyond what the related State law required in their demands related to plaintiffs’ mental distress claims. SLABBED wishes both full sails and fair seas and makes note of the tireless effort of their counsel – Kris Carter of Denham Law for Mrs. Politz and Tina Nicholson of Merlin Law Group for the Hillier litigation.
The truth is that Slabbed should have also noted in recent posts, "Let’s Talk Bad Faith Insurer Prime Insurance Syndicate and Appraisal" and "A Kuehn Appraisal Postscript: Hired Guns and Childrens Imagination Station v Prime Insurance Syndicate," that it was Tina Nicholson who was responsible for advancing the policyholder’s winning arguments in the The Children’s Imagination Station vs. Prime Insurance Syndicate, Inc.
She was the one that litigated the case and made some jumbled ideas of mine into legal prose worthy of a decision that now helps policyholders when insurers still fail to pay the disputed insurance claim following an appraisal.
Slabbed also noted that in a recent blog, Recent Comments Worthy of Posts Regarding Insurance Coverage Issues, I explained that I believed blogs should not just be propaganda, but a forum to share accurate information and opinions that otherwise might not be available to those who are interested:
One agenda of my blog is to provide an honest opinion of what is going on in the insurance coverage and claims field. I could "dump" on insurance companies to gain business, but that would be a false statement about the truth. Such propaganda would just placate those that want to say that insurance companies are bad. In my view, one of the major problems in our modern culture is not giving credit to those with different opinions just because you do not have the same view. We need to have more mature debate as well as transparency about the "elephants in the room" without fear of reprisal.
To be transparent and keep with that view, Tina Nicholson, along with others, also deserve credit for a lot of the work some may attribute to me in our Mississippi litigation. Tina left the Mississippi Gulf Coast to open our Houston office in June 2008. She is still litigating her heart out for Mississippi clients in a few remaining Katrina cases. And, as a result of finding an area of law with purpose, she appears to have forgotten completely about that novel. All of us are better off for her change of heart and renewed dedication to the practice of law.