Happy New Year and Happy Anniversary to Us!

January 14th, 2018 By Catherine Hanna

Happy New Year!

Our blog took a little hiatus, but now we’re back and ready to take on 2018! While the new year is a time for reflection on years past and contemplation of goals for the future, this year presents a special oppurtunity for reflection at Hanna & Plaut as we celebrate 20 years as a firm! Many things have changed since 1998. For one thing, the Austin skyline has changed dramatically.


Austin 1998

Austin 2018

The legal landscape for insurance carriers has changed as well, sometimes in fits and starts. Not surprising as one Supreme Court justice described insurance issues in Texas as “treacherous.” After twenty years of “bad faith” litigation in Texas, with its inevitable ups and downs, the Texas Supreme Court’s decided USAA v. Menchaca (2017) with its 5 supposedly clarifying rules. We look forward to additional clarification in 2018 as the Texas Supreme Court granted USAA’s motion for hearing on December 15, 2017.

In our twenty years, we’ve watched Texas homeowners’ coverage issues evolve as Texas courts read expansive coverage into the policies and carriers then move to add exclusions for things like foundation movement and mold. More recently, we’ve seen legislative reforms to address the torrent of litigation that followed hailstorms and hurricanes. We’ve yet to see how these new weather-related claims processes will play out in the wind/hail litigation that is pending around the state.

Texas weather and its resulting litigation has also resulted in significant development in the law related to appraisal in the property damage context. Before the Texas Supreme Court’s 2009 opinion in State Farm Lloyds v. Johnson, the most prominent appraisal case was over 100 years old. Now we see appraisal opinions issued on almost a weekly basis.

Twenty years ago, the Supreme Court ‘s opinion in Liberty Mutual v. Garrison Contractors opened the door to suits against individual adjusters and to the practice of Plaintiffs’ lawyers naming individual adjusters in their lawsuits in an effort to defeat diversity jurisdiction. Texas’s recent hailstorm litigation should put an end to that practice, at least in connection with weather-related claims.

We waved goodbye to bad faith in the workers’ compensation context in 2012 with the Texas Supreme Court’s decision in Texas Mutual v. Ruttiger.

We’ve also seen important developments of the law in the third-party claims context, but that subject will have to wait for another day. We’ve found some old photos and we are feeling sentimental:

Taylor and Jordan Hanna, then and now (and yes, working for the firm is a long-standing family tradition!)

Eddie and Sam Plaut, then and now

The Austin skyline and the Hanna & Plaut kids have grown up and, though you might not be able to tell by looking, David and I are older too. However, some fundamentals remain: Austin is still weird; Texas courts can still resemble the wild, wild west; and there is nothing we like more than coming to the office every day and helping our clients. The entire Hanna & Plaut family remains ready and eager to serve. We look to 2018 as a year to reaffirm our commitment to the values that have made our firm great, i.e., a diverse team of smart lawyers and support staff to partner with our clients toward great case resolutions.