Hail Damage

Duncanville insurance attorneys need to know how the courts looks at the appraisal provisions in an insurance policy. This issue came up in a recent Amarillo Court of Appeals opinion styled, Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Company v. Brittni Sampley.
Farm Bureau insured Sampley’s vehicle under a Texas personal automobile policy. The vehicle suffered hail damage and, when the parties disagreed over the cost of repairs, Sampley invoked the appraisal provision in the policy. It requires each party to select a “competent appraiser.” Each party selected an appraiser. After being notified of Sampley’s choice of Robert Batt as her appraiser, Farm Bureau sent her a letter advising her choice was “unacceptable as Mr. Batt is an employee of Bernard’s Advanced Collision, the body shop who repaired your vehicle. Texas law not only requires appraisers to be competent, but also disinterested in the outcome of the appraisal process.” The letter asked Sampley to “inform us once you have selected a disinterested appraiser.” When Sampley declined to change appraisers, Farm Bureau filed suit asking the trial court to remove Batt as appraiser. The parties stipulated Batt “is not disinterested as to the appraisal of the loss at issue because he is employed by Bernard’s Advanced Collision and that company will be paid from the results of the appraisal.”
Farm Bureau filed a motion for summary judgment which was denied. The court issued a further order stating in part that it “sees no requirement that an appraiser in this appraisal process must be both competent and disinterested and will not impose such a requirement.”
Farm Bureau’s brief presents an issue asking whether an appraiser in an insurance appraisal must be financially disinterested in the results of the appraisal.
Sampley’s policy with Texas Farm Bureau contains the following appraisal clause:
APPRAISAL If we and you do not agree on the amount of loss, either may demand an appraisal of the loss. In this event, each party will select a competent appraiser. The two appraisers will select an umpire. The appraisers will state separately the actual cash value and the amount of loss. If they fail to agree, they will submit their differences to the umpire. A decision agreed to by any two will be binding. Each party will: 1. Pay its chosen appraiser; and 2. Bear the expenses of the appraisal and umpire equally. We do not waive any of our rights under this policy by agreeing to an appraisal.
This appeals court then got into a lengthy discussion about the law. In this discussion the court cited cases going back to 1919, and law from other states.
The court was ultimately of the opinion that Texas case law does not require disinterested appraisers when the parties have not included that requirement in their contract, and concluded also that the policy here does not require appraisers be disinterested merely by requiring that they be competent. To do so would be to read into the policy a provision the parties did not include.