To err is human. To disagree on an appraisal award is not grounds to set it aside.

June 28th, 2018 By Catherine Hanna

In Abdalla v. Farmers Ins. ExchangeNo. 07-17-00020-CV, 2018 WL 2220269 at * 1 (Tex. App.—Amarillo May 14, 2018, no pet. h.), the Amarillo Court of Appeals rejected an insured’s attempt to convert a disagreement among appraisers regarding the extent of damage into a reason to set aside a valid appraisal award. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision denying Abdalla’s motion to vacate the umpire’s award and granting summary judgment in favor of Farmers.   Abdalla sued Farmers alleging breach of contract and extra-contractual claims in relation to a claim for water damage loss.  The parties proceeded with appraisal, and the trial court appointed an umpire who determined that the appraisal by the Farmer’s appraiser was the “more sound and well supported appraisal” and issued an appraisal award for $345,664.21 actual cash value. Farmers tendered the appraisal award less applicable deductions and prior payments.  Abdalla disagreed with the umpire’s determination and sought to vacate the award and appoint a new umpire asserting that the award resulted from a mistake.

At the time Abdalla filed the motion to vacate, Farmers was also seeking summary judgment.  The trial court denied Abdalla’s motion to vacate; affirmed the umpire’s award; and granted Farmer’s motion for summary judgment on Abdalla’s breach of contract claim.  Subsequently, Farmers filed a second motion for summary judgment on the extra-contractual causes of action which the trial court granted.  Abdalla appealed the decisions denying his motion to vacate the umpire’s award and granting summary judgment in favor of Farmers.

A court may set aside an appraisal award when the award (1) fails to comply with the policy; (2) was made without authority; or (3) resulted from fraud, accident, or mistake.  See id. at *2, (citing Garcia v. State Farm Lloyds, 514 S.W.3d 257, 265 (Tex. App. – San Antonio 2016, pet. denied)).  Abdalla argued that the appraisal award was a product of a mistake. The alleged mistake was actually a disagreement between the appraisers about the extent of the damage and the omission of an element of damage from the final appraisal award that Abdalla’s appraiser believed should have been included.  In rejecting Abdalla’s argument, the court of appeals reaffirmed prior decisions by the Amarillo and other Texas courts of appeals that an appraiser’s disagreement between an umpire’s decision to adopt the estimate of the other appraisal and the omission of some aspect of damage from the final appraisal award do not constitute a mistake.  An umpire’s decision to “select between competing viewpoints or appraisals ‘does not mean that the appraisal resulted from accident or mistake.’” Id. (citing MLCSV10 v. Stateside Enters., Inc., 866 F. Supp.2d 691, 702 (S.D. Tex. 2012))