Insurance Agents And Releases Against Insurance Companies

People in Weatherford, Aledo, Azle, Hudson Oaks, Willow Park, Mineral Wells, Millsap, Brock, Cool, Springtown, Peaster, Poolville, Whitt, and other places in Parker County need to make sure they know what they are doing when they sign a release for a claim they have against an insurance company.
The Texas Court of Appeals, Amarillo, issued an opinion on October 25, 2011. The style of the case is Trisha Braziel, Spencer Braziel and Kathy Wright v. Becton Insurance Agency, Inc.
This case was an appeal from a Motion For Summary Judgement which was granted against the Braziels and Wright.
Wright and the Braziels sued to recover damages allegedly suffered when a fire burned a home owned by the former and leased to the latter. Wright who purchased insurance on the abode from Travelers Lloyds of Texas Insurance Company (Travelers) through Becton (i.e. Travelers’ agent) and alleged that Becton had been instructed to name the Braziels as additional insureds. Becton apparently failed to abide by the directive, though the trial court nonetheless found that the occupant’s contents (that is, those of the Braziels) were covered by the policy. Eventually, Travelers, Wright, and the Braziels settled their dispute and executed an agreement releasing Travelers. It paid Wright $94,391.15 to satisfy her claim under the policy and an additional $25,000 to Wright and the Braziels in exchange for the release.
In his motion for summary judgment, Becton asserted that he was not liable because Wright and the Braziels settled with and released their claims against Travelers.
In reviewing the case the court noted that no one disputed that a settlement was had with Travelers and that a release was executed as part of that agreement. Per that document, Wright and each Braziel bound themselves to “RELEASE, ACQUIT, and FOREVER DISCHARGE Travelers from any and all Event Claims including those asserted, whether accrued or unaccrued, whether known or unknown, whether existing or that may arise hereafter.” Furthermore, the settlement contract they signed defined not only the term “Travelers” but also “Event” and “Claims.” Within the scope of “Travelers,” the parties agreed to include not only the insurance company itself but also “… all of its past, present, and future underwriters, officers, directors, stockholders, agents, attorneys, insurers, servants …” and others. In turn, “Event” was interpreted to mean “the fire loss occurring on or about December 8, 2007,” while “Claims” was defined as “any and all past, present and/or future claims, demands … settlements and causes of action ….”
Included in the court’s record on this case was a copy of an agreement between Becton and Travelers. Through it, Travelers designated Becton as its “agent,” and in accordance with that designation, Becton’s name appeared under the moniker “Agent’s Name and Address” in the insurance policy issued by Travelers to Wright. No one disputes that Wright and the Braziels seek damages from Becton and that the damages pertain to the loss caused by the fire occurring on or about December 8, 2007.
Based on the plain language of the release the court ruled in favor of Becton.
The relevance of this case is pointing out that a person needs to know what they are signing when they sign a release. It appears that Wright and the Braziels wanted to preserve their claim against the agent, Becton, but the language of the release they signed prevented them being able to pursue the claims against him. One way of preventing this is to see an experienced Insurance Law Attorney.