Joe Nixon's Two Faces

How a state rep cultivated both sides of the mold issue

Nixon denies the allegation. "This was a horrible experience and it was very, very challenging on my kids and my family to go through this. Farmer's has admitted they owed every penny, even the last little bit that was in dispute.

"Knowing what I had to go through, people shouldn't have to go through this," says Nixon.

That's a sentiment shared by Gordon Sudduth, senior pastor at Oak Ridge Baptist. He detailed in a court affidavit how in December 2001, "a large group left the church because they saw it would be a long ordeal. Many young couples wanted more for their children…Our effectiveness in the community has been neutralized without a place to provide child care and youth activities we once took pride in hosting."

Nixon took his mold settlement, then blamed others for causing an insurance crisis.
John Anderson
Nixon took his mold settlement, then blamed others for causing an insurance crisis.

Unlike the church -- it is still fighting the insurance companies with no settlement in sight, thanks to the court continuances secured by Nixon -- the legislator says he has come out of his mold experience with a different set of sympathies.

"I felt very sorry for the insurance industry," explains Nixon, "'cause they didn't feel they had any control over the process, because they had a whole group of lawyers out there ready for them to make a mistake. And if they did, then they were going to bring these gargantuan lawsuits."

Attorney Hagans represented Melinda Ballard in a recent mold case that gained a jury verdict of $32 million dollars from Farmers Insurance. It is currently on appeal.

"I can say without any equivocation that if Joe Nixon's current story is accurate, then he got preferential treatment," says Hagans. "That's not the way Farmer's has treated anybody else even in terms of the time periods it took." As Hagans points out, Ballard was out of her house for four years, and Oak Ridge Baptist has been without a permanent place of worship for three.

According to Nixon, the grand jury investigation and Hagans's attacks are all part of the work of Texas trial lawyers who are furious at him for sponsoring "tort reform" legislation to cut back on wasteful litigation and exorbitant judgments.

"That's the irony of this whole thing," commented Nixon, choking with laughter for a moment. "Fred would want my case to sue for a whole lot. And I'm not doing that. So [he thinks] there's got to be some skulduggery. Well, there's not any."

He pauses to consider his position. "When you have citizen legislators, we're supposed to take our personal experiences to the statehouse and figure out what's best for everybody. That's the whole point of it."

Based on his actions on both sides of the mold issue, it appears that Nixon is much better at figuring out what's best for himself than for his constituents.

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