Case Notes


“You Can’t Make Me”—Court Recognizes Limits on Authority to Order Specific Adjuster’s Mediation Attendance

July 12th, 2019 By Eric S. Peabody

In the course of litigation stemming from a motor vehicle accident, an El Paso trial court ordered the parties and their representatives “with full settlement authority” to mediation.  The defendant’s insurer, Allstate, sent a representative who was not the handling adjuster to the mediation.  The mediation was unsuccessful.  The plaintiff subsequently filed a motion to compel attendance of the adjuster handling the claim at a second mediation, which the court granted.  The adjuster sought mandamus relief from the trial court’s
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Barbara Technologies and Ortiz Allow Attorneys’ Fees and Late Payment Penalties Despite Insurer’s Payment of Appraisal Award.

July 1st, 2019 By David L. Plaut

“I come, then, to bury appraisals, not praise them.” -Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, Barbara Technologies (dissenting). In its Barbara Technologies and Ortiz decisions last Friday, the Texas Supreme Court resolved the troublesome question of whether an insurer’s payment of an appraisal award necessarily precludes common law and statutory “bad faith,” as well as prompt payment penalties under the Texas Insurance Code.  Writing for a 6-3 majority in Barbara Technologies, Justice Paul Green found in favor of the policyholder and held
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You Can’t Always Get What You Want (if what you want is a declaratory judgment on non-liability)

June 16th, 2019 By Jeffrey C. Glass

In re Houston Specialty Insurance Co., 569 S.W.3d 138 (Tex. Jan. 25, 2019) is a mandamus case involving an insurer’s motion to dismiss a declaratory judgment action by a law firm seeking a declaration of non-liability for malpractice in representing the insurer and advising it did not owe a defense in an underlying suit.  The Texas Supreme Court ultimately held the Rule 91a motion was proper because the declaratory judgment action seeking non-liability was without merit. [Ed. Note – Rule
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Collateral Source? Not necessarily. Sometimes you CAN have your cake and eat it too.

May 5th, 2019 By Tara Mireur

The Amarillo Court of Appeals has overturned a lower court decision to grant a new trial after the lower court determined that admitted testimony concerning the Plaintiff’s “claim” violated the collateral source rule and likely caused the jury to apportion responsibility and determine damages that were inconsistent with the great weight of the evidence at trial. In re DCP Operating Company, LP f/k/a DCP Midstream, LP, 2019 WL 1908147 (Tex. App. – Amarillo April 29, 2019). At trial, Brain Stringer
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Eastern District Declines to Invalidate Arbitration Provision in Harvey Coverage Litigation

April 13th, 2019 By Sarah Scott

In recent litigation arising out of Hurricane Harvey damage, Eastern District Magistrate Judge Zack Hawthorn has recommended that the District Court enforce an arbitration provision in a commercial property insurance policy issued to Southwest LTC-Management Services, LLC.  Doc. #16, Report and Recommendation, Southwest LTC-Management Service, LLC v. Lexington Ins. Co. et al., No.1:18-CV-00491-MAC (E.D. Tex., March 29, 2019). Plaintiff filed suit in state court requesting $8,400,000 in damages to its Port Arthur property. After removing the case to federal court,
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Texas Supreme Court Rejects Attempt to Overturn Brainard

March 31st, 2019 By Catherine Hanna

On Friday, March 29, 2019, the Texas Supreme Court denied review in Case No. 18-0231, Weber v. Progressive.  Hanna & Plaut’s Jeff Glass and David Plaut represented Progressive in this UM/UIM case that sought to overturn the Texas Supreme Court’s Brainard and Henson decisions. Weber argued that she “complied with all conditions precedent” to sue for breach of contract on her personal auto policy with Progressive when she obtained consent to settle with the underlying tortfeasor after exhaustion of the
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Plaut Spouts: Reflections of an Old Guy with a Corner Office

February 28th, 2019 By David L. Plaut

On February 20, 2019, the Texas Supreme Court heard argument in Barbara Technologies Corp. v. State Farm Lloyds and Oscar Ortiz v. State Farm Lloyds.  These cases raised questions about whether insurers have potential Insurance Code and common law “bad faith” liability following invocation of the appraisal process and payment of an appraisal award.  In both cases, appraisal panels awarded significantly more for repair costs than the insurers had initially estimated, making them attractive vehicles for policyholder arguments that carriers
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Fifth Circuit Reaffirms Attorney Immunity Doctrine

February 25th, 2019 By Tara Mireur

In Ironshore Europe DAC v. Schiff Hardin, LLP, No. 18-40101 (5th Cir. 2019), the Fifth Circuit recently reversed the district court decision we previously wrote about here. The district court denied an attorney’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit against it by an excess insurance carrier complaining it was misled about settlement, instead holding that the law firm could not be held liable to a nonclient under the attorney immunity defense doctrine.   The lower court’s decision to allow the claim was
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Keeping Adjusters Out of the Hot Seat – UM/UIM Edition

February 3rd, 2019 By Sheila Tan

UM/UIM cases are a unique hybrid of tort and contract. Although the insured’s own insurance carrier is often named as a defendant, it has no contractual duty to pay benefits until after the liability of the insured and the other motorist, as well as the damages suffered by the insured, have been determined. Brainard v. Trinity Universal Ins. Co., 216 S.W.3d 809, 815 (Tex. 2006). Trial courts often struggle with the dilemma of how to avoid the prejudicial injection of insurance
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You Can Lead an Insured to Water but Can You Make Him Settle?

January 27th, 2019 By Eric S. Peabody

Policy Creates Agency Relationship for Settlement An unpublished Texas opinion that has received some national attention in “case roundups” at the end of 2018, McCain v. Promise House, Inc., No. 05-16-00714-CV, 2018 WL 2042009 (Tex. App.–Dallas, May 2, 2018, no pet.), addressed the effect of an insured’s refusal to sign off on a settlement agreement desired and approved by its liability carrier. Glen McCain sued Promise House, a residential social services care facility, after his eleven-year-old son was physically and
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