Articles Posted in Insurance Law

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Plaintiffs, who owned insurance policies with National Lloyds Insurance Company, filed independent lawsuits against National Lloyds, claiming they were underpaid on claims following two hail storms in Hidalgo County. The Multidistrict Litigation Panel of Texas (MDL Panel) granted the motions of other insurance carriers seeking to transfer cases arising from the hail storms to a pretrial court and subsequently transferred Plaintiffs’ claims to the same pretrial court. At issue in this case was National Lloyd’s failure to produce certain information requested by Plaintiffs. The pretrial court entered an order compelling National Lloyds to produce six categories of documents, including “management reports and emails,” and assessed sanctions for attorney’s fees. National Lloyds sought mandamus relief, asserting that the compelled discovery was overbroad. The Supreme Court conditionally granted mandamus relief, holding (1) the pretrial court abused its discretion in compelling production of the management reports and emails; and (2) because the pretrial court’s order was overboard as the management reports and emails, but because National Lloyds failed to produce five other categories of discovery, the sanctions award must be reevaluated. View "In re National Lloyds Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Bonnie Jones was injured during the course of her employment. Her employer’s comp carrier, American Home Assurance Company, paid her various benefits but did not pay her supplemental income benefits (SIBs) for the fourteenth quarter of 2011. Jones sued, and the parties settled. Under the Texas workers’ compensation regime, where SIBs are concerned, settlements cannot bypass a statutory formula or facilitate benefits were none were due as a matter of law. In this case, the settlement was noncompliant. The trial court approved the proposed settlement, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that a court cannot condone a noncompliant settlement regarding an SIBs award. View "Tex. Dep’t of Ins., Div. of Workers’ Comp. v. Jones" on Justia Law

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After Randall Seger died while working on a hydraulic-lift drilling rig when it suddenly collapsed, his parents obtained a judgment against the drilling company. The drilling company then assigned its rights against the insurers to the parents, and the parents brought a Stowers action against the insurers. See G.A. Stowers Furniture Co. v. Am. Indem. Co. The court held that, because the evidence is legally insufficient to support a jury verdict to the contrary, Randall was a leased-in worker as a matter of law. In this case, plaintiffs' claimed loss was excluded from coverage under the commercial general liability (CGL) policy and the Stowers action fails as a result. The court did not reach the damages issue addressed by the court of appeals. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment, which reversed the trial court's judgment and rendered judgment that plaintiffs take nothing, but on different grounds. View "Seger v. Yorkshire Ins." on Justia Law

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After Tenant moved into her apartment, her apartment and several adjoining units were severely damaged in a fire that originated in Tenant’s clothes dryer. Insurer paid Landlord’s insurance claim and then sued Tenant for negligence and breach of the Apartment Lease Contract. The jury found that Tenant breached the lease agreement and awarded $93,498 in actual damages and attorney’s fees from Insurer. Tenant filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, asserting several grounds for avoiding enforcement of the contract. The trial court granted Tenant’s motion and rendered a take-nothing judgment. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the residential-lease provision imposing liability on Tenant for property losses resulting from “any other cause not due to [the landlord’s] negligence or fault” was void and unenforceable because it broadly and unambiguously shifted liability for repairs beyond legislatively authorized bounds. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the court of appeals properly rejected Tenant’s ambiguity defense; but (2) the court of appeals erred in invalidating the lease provision on public-policy grounds. Remanded. View "Philadelphia Indem. Ins. Co. v. White" on Justia Law

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Stacey and Mark Bent sued USAA for breach of their homeowners’ policy and violations of the Texas Insurance Code. The Bents subsequently stopped making mortgage payments, and their lender foreclosed on their home. The Bents’ case against USAA, however, proceeded to trial. The jury concluded that USAA had not breached the homeowner’s policy but did violate chapter 541 of the Insurance Code. The trial court entered judgment on the jury’s verdict but later granted the Bents’ motion for new trial. The court of appeals conditionally granted a writ of mandamus directing the trial court to vacate its order and render judgment on the jury’s verdict, concluding that the trial court abused its discretion on each of its bases for ordering a new trial. The Bents sought relief in mandamus from the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court denied the Bents’ mandamus petition, holding (1) three of the trial court’s bases for ordering a new trial failed to satisfy the facial requirements set forth in In re Columbia Med. Ctr. of Las Colinas, Subsidiary, L.P. and In re United Scaffolding, Inc.; and (2) on the remaining basis at issue on appeal, the court of appeals correctly found that the record did not support the trial court’s stated rationale. View "In re Bent" on Justia Law

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J&D Towing, LLC, a towing company, owned only one tow truck that was rendered a total loss when a negligent motorist collided with the truck. J&D filed a claim with American Alternative Insurance Corporation (AAIC) under an underinsured-motorist policy issued by AAIC requesting compensation for the loss of use of the truck. AAIC denied the claim. Thereafter, J&D sued AAIC seeking loss-of-use damages. The trial court entered judgment in favor of J&D. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Texas law allows loss-of-use damages for partial destruction but not for total destruction of personal property. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Texas law permits loss-of-use damages in total-destruction cases. View "J&D Towing, LLC v. Am. Alternative Ins. Corp." on Justia Law

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U.S. Metals, Inc. sold ExxonMobil Corp. approximately 350 flanges for use in constructing diesel refinery processing units. In post-installation testing, several flanges leaked, and ExxonMobil decided it was necessary to replace them to avoid the risk of fire and explosion. ExxonMobil sued U.S. Metals for the cost of replacing the flanges and damages for the lost use of the diesel units during the process. U.S. Metal settled with ExxonMobil and then claimed indemnification from its commercial general liability (CGL) insurer, Liberty Mutual Group, Inc., for the amount paid. Liberty Mutual denied coverage. U.S. Metals sued in federal district court to determine its right to a defense and indemnity under the policy. Four questions were certified to the Supreme Court by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The Court concluded that the CGL does not cover most of the damages claimed and answered the circuit court’s questions accordingly. View "U.S. Metals, Inc. v. Liberty Mut. Group, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law

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McGinnes Industrial Waste Corporation dumped pulp and paper mill waste sludge into disposal pits near the San Jacinto River in Pasadena, Texas (the site). After environmental contamination was discovered at the site, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) instituted superfund cleanup proceedings under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). During the period that McGinnes was dumping waste at the Site, it was covered by standard-form commercial general liability (CGL) insurance policies issued by Phoenix Insurance Company and Travelers Indemnity Company (together, the Insurers). McGinnes requested a defense in the EPA proceedings from the Insurers. The Insurers refused, determining that the proceedings were not a “suit” under the policy. McGinnes sued the insurers in federal court seeking a declaration that the policies obligated them to defend the EPA’s CERCLA proceedings. The district court granted the Insurers’ motion for partial summary judgment on the duty-to-defend issue. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit certified a question regarding the issue to the Texas Supreme Court. The Supreme Court answered that “suit” in the CGL policies at issue must also include CERCLA enforcement proceedings by the EPA. View "McGinnes Indus. Maint. Corp. v. Phoenix Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Candelario Lopez, who was hired by Interstate Treating to work on the installation of a gas processing plant, was transporting two other Interstate Treating employees to the job site when he died in an automobile accident. Lopez’s wife, Maximina Lopez, sought death benefits from Interstate Treating’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier, SeaBright Insurance Co. SeaBright denied coverage, concluding that Lopez was not acting in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident. A hearing officer, however, determined that Lopez was acting in the course and scope of his employment and ordered SeaBright to pay death benefits. The trial court affirmed the administrative decision. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court’s judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Lopez was acting in the course and scope of his employment when he died, and Maximina was entitled to benefits. View "Seabright Ins. Co. v. Lopez" on Justia Law

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At issue in these two separate cases was whether a life settlement agreement or viatical settlement agreement is an investment contract and thus a security under the Texas Securities Act. In one case, Plaintiffs filed a class action alleging that Life Partners, Inc. violated the Texas Securities Act (Act) by selling unregistered securities and misrepresenting to purchasers that they were not, in fact, securities. In the second case, the State filed suit alleging that Life Partners had committed fraud in connection with the sale of securities. The Both district courts entered judgments for Life Partners. Both courts of appeals reversed in part, concluding that the life settlement agreements were securities under the Texas Securities Act. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that that the agreements at issue in these cases were investment contracts, and thus securities, under the Texas Securities Act. View "Life Partners Holdings, Inc. v. State" on Justia Law