Texas Judge Susan Criss signed an Order this morning approving the settlement of the slabbed cases from Hurricane Ike. She made the following findings:
4. The Court finds that the Settlement was negotiated at arm’s length by Plaintiffs’ counsel and TWIA’s counsel. The Settlement is reasonable in light of the uncertainty as to whether the Class Members could prevail on their causes of action against TWIA, the risks and cost of litigation, and the value of claims foregone. The terms and conditions of Settlement are no less favorable to the Class Members than comparable arms-length terms and conditions that would have been agreed to by unrelated parties under similar circumstances.
Judge Criss should know since she was involved in the settlement discussions of the individual slabbed claims noted in Texas Windstorm Insurer Settles 2,400 Hurricane Ike Slab Claims. There are many pending motions before her which are novel issues of law. Some of those rulings may not be favorable to policyholders. If they survive those motions, the recoveries could be delayed for years. Yet, everybody has to make their own judgments about what is best for them and their particular factual situation. I wish them the best of luck. We plan to at least help argue legal points which Texas decisions seem to have muddled and to help Texas policyholders in the future. I want to avoid the situation which happened in Mississippi, which I described in Personal observations of the Tuepker vs. State Farm oral argument.
This is a far different result and situation than when I stood up and spoke out against the proposed State Farm Class Action settlement in Mississippi. Under Mississippi law, I was certain money was being left on the table for those who were the most damaged in the class action proposed by Dickie Scruggs. It was easy for me to explain this to Judge Sentor, which lead to his refusal to certify or approve a class settlement. It was obvious to me that the TWIA attorneys had gone to school on the State Farm fiasco in Mississippi and devised a resolution, acceptable to the vast majority of those slabbed by Hurricane Ike, which reflects the facts, the policy, and Texas law.