Latest News


Punctuation Station: The Saga of the Oxford Comma

April 20th, 2018 By Rachel Shores

“For want of a comma, we have this case.” This is the First Court of Appeals’ opening sentence to a thirteen-page opinion analyzing the effect that a little piece of punctuation, or lack thereof, had on its interpretation of a legislative provision. That “little piece of punctuation” is commonly known as the Oxford comma, and its absence ultimately led to a steep damages award. Before we turn to the opinion itself, let’s re-cap what the Oxford comma is. Also called
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Menchaca on Rehearing: Simpler than it Seems!

April 13th, 2018 By David L. Plaut

The opinion on rehearing in Menchaca came out today.  What initially seems like a daunting read, with Justice Boyd authoring the 65-page plurality opinion, is actually quite clear.  A majority of the Court unanimously reaffirmed the legal principles of the prior Menchaca opinion and agreed to reverse the policyholder’s judgment on her Hurricane Ike/homeowner’s claim and to remand for a new trial.  Slip op. at *1.  The debate between the justices on rehearing – with plurality, concurring, and dissenting opinions
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Insurer Entitled to Summary Judgment in Post-Menchaca Appraisal Case

April 9th, 2018 By Anne-Marie Abarado

In Wellington Ins. Co. v. Banuelos, No. 04-17-00365-CV, 2018 WL 626534, at * 2 (Tex. App.—San Antonio Jan. 31, 2018, no pet. h.) the San Antonio Court of Appeals reaffirmed its decisions in Garcia v. State Farm Lloyds and Ortiz v. State Farm Lloyds that “an insurer’s payment of an appraisal award entitled an insurer to summary judgment on the insured’s contractual and extra-contractual claims” and that the Supreme Court’s decision in USAA Tex. Lloyds Co. v. Menchaca did not require them
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Plaintiff Cannot Checkmate Carrier With Pre-Suit Appraisal Reference

March 20th, 2018 By Todd Key

In the recent case of In re Allstate Vehicle & Prop. Ins. Co., 09-18-00024-CV, 2018 WL 1003794, (Tex. App.—Beaumont Feb. 22, 2018, no pet. h.), the Beaumont Court of Appeals confirmed per curiam that insurance carriers do not waive their right to appraisal in response to pre-suit demands by claimants. With the exception of an unusual reference to appraisal by the claimant, the facts of the case were relatively typical. After an initial inspection and payment on a claim for
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Defining Damages in a CGL Policy – Do Attorney’s Fees Make the Cut?

March 13th, 2018 By Sarah Scott

Given the broad nature of most commercial general liability (CGL) policies, it’s not surprising that creative attorneys continue to press new arguments about costs and fees that should (or should not) be covered. In most CGL policies, the insuring agreement says the carrier will pay “those sums that the insured becomes legally obligated to pay as damages because of ‘bodily injury’ or ‘property damage’ to which this insurance applies…” Problematically, many policies don’t define the term “damages,” which leaves wiggle
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Plaut Spouts: Reflections of an Old Guy with a Corner Office

March 7th, 2018 By David L. Plaut

One of the great things about practicing law here at Hanna & Plaut is that you’re surrounded by quality people wherever you look.  Besides my savvy, highly accomplished trial lawyer partner Catherine – and yes, I know she needs no introduction – we have terrific lawyers, young and old.   I couldn’t be happier than practicing law here with these people. Last week I had the great pleasure of going to trial with two of our lawyers, Sheila Tan and Sarah
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Judge Pushes the Button for Coverage for Elevator Subcontractor

February 27th, 2018 By Jeffrey C. Glass

Literal interpretation of unambiguous policy language rejected  because it would defeat the purpose of the liability coverage. In a recent decision construing a commercial general liability policy, Judge Sam Sparks of the Western District of Texas used contextual clues in the policy as well as an “illusory coverage argument” to narrow an exclusion whose literal words applied more broadly. In Northfield Ins. Co. v. Herrera, A-16-CA-00553-SS, 2017 WL 5147618, at *3 (W.D. Tex. Nov. 6, 2017), an employee of Austin Energy
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Insurance Carrier Allowed to Sue Attorney For Failing to Disclose Settlement Demand

February 19th, 2018 By Tara Mireur

In a ruling likely to give insurance attorneys heartburn, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Marshall Division denied an attorney’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit against it by an excess insurance carrier complaining it was misled about settlement. Ironshore Europe DAC v. Schiff Hardin, LLP, 2018 WL 338604 (E.D. Tex. Jan. 9, 2018). The Schiff Hardin firm was representing Ironshore’s insured Dorel Juvenile Group, Inc. in a lawsuit filed by the Hinsons, who were parents
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Consent to Settle Does Not Establish UM/UIM Coverage

February 12th, 2018 By Sheila Tan

A recent federal case out of the Eastern District of Texas, Sherman Division, highlights an important but occasionally misunderstood rule in UM/UIM litigation – that the insurer’s consent to an insured’s settlement with the third-party driver is no substitute for a legal judgment establishing liability and damages, which remains a condition precedent to coverage.   The phrase “legally entitled to recover” under the UM/UIM section of the auto policy means that a plaintiff must obtain a judgment against the third-party driver
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Please Join Us For a Texas-sized Webinar

February 9th, 2018 By Catherine Hanna

Hanna & Plaut is pleased to announce that Catherine will be speaking at an Insurance Council of Texas Webinar on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 on bad faith and assignment issues. Please join us for this exciting presentation. Texas-sized Issues: Assignment of Benefits and Bad Faith Tuesday, February 13, 2018 11:00am Speaker: Catherine Hanna Two important legal topics relevant to many of ICT member companies, assignment of benefits and bad faith, will be detailed and discussed by Austin attorney Catherine Hanna in
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