John Steven "Steve" Mostyn
In the entryway of the Mostyn Law firm in Austin hangs a painting that Amber Mostyn gave to her husband Steve as a Valentine's gift. It contains a quote by Sam Houston that best summarizes Steve's life's work in the legal, political and legislative fields: "Do right and risk the consequences."
John Steven ("Steve") Mostyn was born in Perth, Australia in 1971 to a Texas oilfield family. Shortly thereafter, the family came back home and settled in East Texas where he grew up and graduated from high school.
Steve's tenacious commitment to doing good in the world started at a young age. In elementary school, he once rode his bicycle 48 miles to raise money for Saint Jude's Research Hospital and was the only fundraiser on the road for long stretches at a time. As a child, he played football, was active in FFA, and on more than one occasion he rode his horse to school (on the days when he wasn't suspended).
Steve attended The University of Texas at Austin, graduating in 1994; and from the South Texas College of Law in 1996.
Steve joined a Houston law firm, but like most things in his life, Steve imagined a different, better way of doing things, and soon set off on his own. Steve founded Mostyn Law in 1999.
Steve was the first person in his family to graduate from college, and was immediately interested in helping people who had been wronged. One of his first groundbreaking cases came when he represented a paraplegic man that had been badly harmed by a faulty component in his vehicle. Steve's work led to a nationwide recall that protected tens of thousands of consumers.
Steve became a father in 2001, with the birth of Mitchell. From football to lacrosse to music, to late nights at the ranch or the beach or fishing out on the open water, Steve was filled with love and pride for Mitch. Steve loved Mitch's friends, and he loved sharing the world with his son. Steve was incomparably proud of the young man Mitch is today watching him hit his stride in high school, playing both JV and starting Varsity football while soaring academically.
Steve and Amber met, although neither of them can quite remember the moment they first crossed paths. Maybe it just felt as though they had always known each other. But like anything else, once Steve knew what he wanted, there nothing anyone else could do about it and in 2006, Amber and Steve were married at their lake house in the Texas Hill Country. Steve's friends will know that he could often only muster a half-smile for photos. But not on his wedding day. Steve's smile in his wedding photos filled the camera. The depth of their love and partnership gave Steve the support he needed to become the man he became.
Their daughter Avalyn was born in 2007. Ava is a writer, a thinker, a fighter, and an athlete. She fills the world around her with a joyous and generous spirit. In other words: she's just like her dad. Steve always had a partner in crime in Ava, and they filled one another's lives with adventure. Steve had just helped Ava perfect her volleyball serve and after 6 seasons together, there will never be a better flag football coach for Avalyn than Coach Steve.
When Hurricanes Ike and Rita devastated Steve's beloved Texas Gulf Coast in 2008, he reinvented the practice of first-party insurance litigation. Mostyn Law represented thousands of homeowners, churches, businesses and local governments who had seen their valid insurance claims wrongly denied. Along the way, Steve helped uncover a culture of corruption and failure at the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association.
As Mostyn Law grew, so did Steve's role in Texas politics and policy-making. Steve was an active member of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, serving as its youngest president in the history of the organization in 2011. And when powerful politicians moved to limit his clients' rights, Steve stormed the Capitol in Austin like Davey Crockett riding to the Alamo. He led efforts to stop multinational insurance companies and their network of special interests from stripping away the rights of homeowners and businesses on the Texas Gulf Coast. In 2014, Steve co-founded his own organization to build upon this work, the Texas Association of Consumer Lawyers.
As Steve's political participation grew, his family and his law firm's clients were targeted for retaliatory attacks by weak men who didn't care who they hurt while clinging to their own money and political power. Steve's response, as ever, was to punch the bully in the nose. He began by fighting against insurance companies as they tried to rewrite the laws in their favor, but soon engaged in legislative battles on behalf of all working families in the state. Steve fought predatory payday lenders, opposed efforts to slash billions from public education and healthcare, advocated for workers and immigrants, and stood up to bullies and special interests at every turn.
Steve knew how deeply flawed our political system is, but he gave anyway, because he knew the stakes. He felt a bone-deep duty to use his financial success and relationships to improve the lives of people without a voice. Steve knew that there was no need to lobby a lawmaker to support working class families if you could just elect fighters from the very beginning. As a result, he and his wife pushed to end the pay-to-play political system and stepped up to serve as anchor donors for fundamental, systemic change in Texas. They put up millions - and raised millions more - to build long lasting infrastructure, revert decades of voter suppression and empower citizens to select the lawmaker of their choice.
After battling insurance companies in Texas, Steve turned his expertise to serving the victims of Hurricane Sandy in New York, uncovering fraud and abuse and helping thousands of Hurricane victims receive the help they needed to rebuild. As trial lawyers, Steve and Amber have presided over some of the most complex and ground-breaking cases stemming from major natural disasters like Hurricanes Ike, Rita and Sandy. Steve was not limited, however, to storm-related damage. He and Amber and their firm have worked on important and influential cases against large companies, including medical device manufacturers that knowingly implanted faulty products in their clients, causing irreparable harm and injury.
Steve was a philanthropic romantic, making surprise donations to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society on Amber's behalf and giving $2 million dollars to fund a headquarters in Austin for Special Olympics of Texas, in honor of Amber's mother. The Glenda Jean Mostyn and Joe E. Moreno Foundation that works on behalf of special needs children across Texas, arose out of Steve's trips to East Texas at Christmas to help his sister with her work as a special needs administrator. Steve's political and charitable generosity has been well documented; but his public giving was just a sliver of his work to improve the lives of nearly everyone he encountered. Steve hired people who were down on their luck, bought dinner and blankets and hotel rooms for people experiencing homelessness. He sponsored immigrants to our country. He secretly paid for another's college tuition. He helped a father with young children have a criminal charge dismissed. He made no-interest loans and often forgot to ask for his money back. He spent hours pacing outside hospital rooms, never wanting to leave friend alone in a time of need. Steve got the head of a pharmaceutical company on the phone to approve the use of a live-saving drug for a young child in need and then flew the family half way across the country to pick up the medicine.
Steve and his family lived a lot of life in his short time on this Earth, traveling, working, eating, drinking, loving and building others up. Steve Mostyn is survived by the loves of his life: Amber, Mitch, and Ava. He is also mourned by the nephew he loved like a son, Skylar, by his sister Jackie, and by "Shrek's Swamp" -- the hundreds of friends, colleagues, and employees whom he gathered up. You always ended up doing Steve what wanted, but he had a way of making you want it too. And he would never let you miss a sunset.
Published by Houston Chronicle from Nov. 19 to Nov. 20, 2017.