Abatement And Uninsured Motorist Benefits

Here’s one for Grand Prairie insurance lawyers handling uninsured motorist (UM) cases.  It is from the Corpus Christi Court of Appeals and is styled, In Re Farmers Texas County Mutual Insurance Company.

This case arose from a wreck with an UM driver.  The real party in interest, Luzminda Llasos brought suit against her auto insurance carrier, Farmers, for UM benefits.  Llasos sued Farmers for breach of contract, violations of the Prompt Pay Act, and violations of the Texas Insurance Code, Section 541.060.  Her original lawsuit papers incorporated written discovery consisting of fifteen interrogatories, twenty-six requests for production, and thirty requests for admission.

Farmers filed a motion to sever and abate Llasos’s extra-contractual claims form the underling UM claim.

Llasos filed a a response and brief in opposition to Farmer’s motion.

The trial court held a hearing on on the status of the case and on Farmer’s motion to sever and abate.  The trial court took the motion under advisement, ordered the parties to proceed with discovery, and ordered the parties to mediation.  With regard to Farmer’s objections to the scope of recovery as inclusive of extra-contractual claims, the trial court instructed the parties to “file a motion and I’ll address it either way.”  The trial court’s ruling were made orally and were not rendered in written format.

This mandamus proceeding ensued.

Mandamus relief may be warranted when a trial court issues an order compelling discovery related to severed and abated claims arising from UM coverage.

This appeal court denied the mandamus request.  First, the trial court did not deny the motion for severance and abatement, but instead took the motion under advisement in order for the parties to mediate the case.  Farmers has not shown that the trial court’s failure to rule at this time constitutes an abuse of discretion.  Second, based on review of the trial court’s oral rulings, the trial court did not order the parties to proceed with discovery pertaining to extra-contractual claims, but instead directed the parties to “file a motion” if there are disputes concerning these matters.  Equity is generally not served by issuing an extraordinary writ against a trial court judge on a ground that was never presented in the trial court and the trial judge thus had no opportunity to address.  Here, the trial court has neither been presented with motions for protection or to compel discovery with regard to specific discovery requests, nor issued any discovery rulings with regard to such matters.  Under the circumstances presented by this record, Farmers failed to show entitlement to mandamus relief.