Suing An Insurance Company

Someone in Grand Prairie, Weatherford, Arlington, Fort Worth, Dallas, Mineral Wells, Grapevine, Keller, Colleyville, or anywhere else in Texas should know that when it comes to suing an insurance company, there are things to know.
A 2007, San Antonio Court of Appeals case serves as a good example. The style of the case is, In re Terri Ann Garcia.
This is a writ of mandamus case. The person suing, Terri Ann Garcia, sought a writ of mandamus to vacate the trial court’s order quashing the deposition of a State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company representative. State Farm was trying to prevent the taking of the deposition of its representative.
Here is some background.
Garcia claimed injury when she was hit by another car. Garcia collected the full liability limits from the other car’s insurance liability carrier. When she sought an under insured motorist claim against her own carrier, State Farm, they denied the claim and she filed a lawsuit. The claim was for her injuries and for bad faith and breach of contract. The trial court severed the injury claim from the bad faith claim and breach of contract claim.
Garcia subsequently informed State Farm of her intent to take the oral deposition of one or more of its representatives. State Farm moved to to quash the deposition and the trial judge granted State Farm’s motion.
In the mandamus petition, Garcia asserted the trial court’s order afforded State Farm “a special immunity from discovery not contemplated by the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure,” emphasizing that State Farm “should not be permitted to conduct full and complete discovery of Garcia’s case position on issues pertaining to the breach of contract allegations” while she is prevented from discovering similar information from State Farm.
In discussing this case the court pointed out that for Garcia to prevail in her breach of contract suit, she must prove both the liability of the third party and her actual damages. State Farm pled several defenses to Garcia’s breach of contract claim, including disputing her actual damages. State Farm alleged Garcia failed to comply with all conditions precedent to recover under her insurance policy; Garcia suffered from pre-existing injuries and conditions; Garcia suffered from subsequent and intervening injuries and conditions not caused by the accident; and Garcia failed to mitigate her damages by ignoring her doctor’s instructions and failing to seek appropriate treatment.
Garcia’s deposition notice informed State Farm that the deposition would cover ten specific areas, including the occurrence or non-occurrence of all conditions precedent under the contract, any facts supporting State Farm’s legal theories and defenses, and information regarding State Farm’s experts. The court’s review of the specific requests lead them to conclude that many of these matters correspond to the defenses and theories raised by State Farm or have a direct bearing on the damages in Garcia’s breach of contract claim. Clearly, information about State Farm’s defenses are relevant and properly discoverable, absent a showing of privilege or some other exemption authorized by the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 192.3(a).
State Farm offered no evidence to substantiate their claim that the evidence could be obtained in other ways, nor did they produce any evidence showing a deposition of its representative constitutes harassment or is unduly burdensome or expensive as required by Rule 192.4(a). State Farm also contended it had stipulated to the insurance policy, the underlying liability policy limits, and the amount of any offsets or credits. At the hearing, State Farm’s attorney represented to the trial court that in the future it would stipulate to the policy of insurance, the facts supporting its legal theories and defenses, its limitation of liability, and any offsets or credits to which it is entitled. However, nothing in the record showed State Farm stipulated to any of these matters. The court said, “We believe State Farm’s assurances that it will stipulate to these matters in the future is not a proper substitute for discovery.”
The court went on to say, “Without the opportunity to fully discover information about State Farm’s multiple defenses, Garcia is effectively prevented from verifying and refuting those defenses. Moreover, as State Farm acknowledges in its brief, Garcia must establish at trial that ‘her damages exceed the underlying liability insurance limits and any other offsets or credits State Farm may be entitled to.'”
Thus, this appeals court ordered the trial court to withdraw its order quashing the deposition of the State Farm representative.