Articles Posted in Bad Faith Insurance

The Texas Insurance Code allows for recovery of mental anguish damages if it can be proven that the illegal conduct of the insurance code was committed knowingly.  Section 541.152 speaks to the knowing conduct.
An award of mental anguish damages may be upheld when the plaintiffs have introduced direct evidence of the nature, duration, and severity  of their mental anguish, thus establishing a substantial disruption in the plaintiffs’ daily routine.  This evidence must come from the claimant’s own testimony, testimony of third parties, or testimony of experts, and is more likely to provide the fact finder with adequate details to assess mental anguish claims.
In the context of applying these standards to an insurance case, the 1996 Texas Supreme Court case styled, Saenz v. Fidelity & Guar. Ins. Underwriters, is a good case to review.

Here is a 2023 opinion wherein the lawsuit alleges the insurer mis-handled a claim.  The opinion is from the Southern District of Texas, Brownsville Division, and is styled, Maria Alcala v. Allstate Vehicle And Property Insurance Company.
Allstate filed a Rule 12(n)(6) motion seeking a partial dismissal.
First, Allstate requests dismissal of Alcala’s claim under the Texas Insurance Code for “failure to promptly provide . . . a reasonable explanation . . . for the insurer’s denial of a claim”, in violation of Texas Insurance Code, Section 541.060(a)(3).  Allstate argues that the Court should dismiss this cause of action because Alcala did not allege reliance or how any allegedly unreasonable explanation contributed to her damages.  As to the initial point, neither Section 541.060(a)(3) nor the caselaw on which Allstate relies indicates that a plaintiff must plead reliance as part of a Section 541.060(a)(3) claim.   And other authorities recognize that a Section 541.060(a)(3) claim “does not involve reliance on material misrepresentations”.  As to damages, Alcala alleges that “because Allstate’s adjuster failed to properly inspect and account for the covered losses, Defendant issued no payment to Plaintiff for the extensive damage to her property. These allegations suffice to support the cause of action at this stage of the proceedings.  As a result, the Court finds both of Allstate’s arguments to dismiss this claim unavailing.

Bad Faith or Texas Insurance Code violations are alleged is the vast majority of situations where an insurance company denies a claim.  So, how do the courts look at these case.  Here is a 2023 case from the Southern District of Texas, Brownsville Division.  It is styled, Maria Alcala v. Allstate Vehicle and Property Insurance Company.
Plaintiff Maria Alcala filed this action in Texas state court against Defendant Allstate Vehicle and Property Insurance, alleging violations of the Texas Insurance Code and the state’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act.  Alcala also alleged that Allstate breached their contract and breached the common law duty of good faith and fair dealing.  Allstate removed the case to federal court, and Alcala initially filed an Amended Complaint and later a Second Amended Complaint.
Allstate filed a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.  The Court granted part of the motion and denied part of the motion.

Insurance lawyers have to know how to deal with experts in a case.  Here is a 2023 opinion from the Eastern District of Texas, Beaumont Division, that deals with an expert.  The opinion is styled, Juanita Vera v. State Auto Insurance Company and Meridian Security Insurance Company.

This is a dispute for damages alleged to have occurred from Hurricane Laura.  Vera hired an expert, Gary Sanders, to testify about causation of Vera’s damages.

The admissibility of expert evidence is a procedural issue governed by Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and the U.S. Supreme Court, Daubert decision.  Federal Rule of Evidence 702 sets forth the requirements that must be satisfied to enable a witness designated as an expert to testify to his or her opinions.  An expert may testify in the form of an opinion if: (1) the expert’s scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue; (2) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data; (3) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and (4) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.

Insurance transactions tend to resemble one another, so disputes arising from them tend to resemble one another.  There are only so many ways that an insurer and an insured can get crossways.  Most cases present recurring problems that can be grouped into categories.  Insurance law is even more precedent-driven than other areas, as courts try to construe similar policy language consistently.  It is not surprising that cases start to look alike.

The starting point is the contract itself.  The initial inquiry always begins with the language of the contract to determine what is covered and what is not.  Other tort and statutory theories may logically depend on the existence of coverage, or may exist independent of coverage.  The interplay between recovery for breach of contract and recovery under other theories needs to be studied.  Beyond suit for breach of contract, most insurance cases can be grouped into three categories:

(1)  misrepresentations

Lawyers handling insurance claim must have an understanding of the statute of limitations for bad faith claims.  This is illustrated in a 2023 opinion from the Western District of Texas, Waco Division.  The opinion is styled, Yvan Jayne v. Health Care Service Corp., A Mutual Legal Reserve Co., D/B/A Blue Cross And Blue Shield Of Texas., et al.

A reading of the case will show the facts of this specific case but shown here is the law relating to the statute of limitations on bad faith claims.

Defendant moved to dismiss Plaintiff’s badfaith breach and Chapter 541 causes of action, arguing that they are barred by the statute of limitations.  Defendant has the burden of proving its affirmative defense, including the date on which limitations commenced.

Bad Faith Law Firms will have a frequent question asked of them.  That question is, “Can I Recover My Attorney Fees.”

One segment of the attorney fees question is addressed in a 2023 opinion from the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division.  The opinion is styled, Gilbane Building Company, Inc. v. Swiss Re Corporate Solutions Elite Insurance Company d/b/a North American Elite Insurance Company and Everest National Insurance Company.

Gilbane brought this lawsuit against Swiss asserting causes of action under the Texas Insurance Code and as part of the claim, sought recovery of attorney fees.  Swiss filed a motion to exclude attorney fees based on the assertion that Gilbane had not complied with Section 542.003(a) of the Texas Insurance Code, in that the presuit notice requirement had not been satisfied as required by that statute.

Bad Faith Insurance Attorneys need to read this 1988, opinion from the Texas Supreme Court.  The opinion is styled, Vail v. Texas Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co.

This case involves a house burning down.  A claim was made for the homeowner insurance benefits and the insurance company denied the claim.  Here is how the court ruled on the recovery of money beyond the policy benefits:

The court of appeals did not make specific holdings on the Vails’ other points of error but generally agreed with the contentions of Texas Farm. Because we reversed the court of appeals and hold that the Vails stated a cause of action for unfair claims settlement practices and are entitled to treble damages under the DTPA, we will also address the parties’ points of error on which the court of appeals did not specifically rule.

Imagine this.  A life insurance claim is denied.  The beneficiary goes to an attorney who makes sends a demand letter to the life insurance company demanding payment and monies for their bad faith actions.  In response to the demand letter the life insurance company sends the policy proceeds, plus interest.  Does that end the matter?

This was answered as far back in Texas as 1908, in the Texas Supreme Court opinion styled, Penn Mutual Life Ins. Co. v. Manor.

For the full facts the opinion, which is kinda long, needs to be read.

Insurance lawyers have a tendency to talk a lot about “bad faith” in the context of insurance disputes.  However, the Courts have a strong tendency to rule that most cases are simply a breach of the insurance contract and do not amount to “bad faith” and violations of the Texas Insurance Code.  A 2022 opinion discussing this was issued by the Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division.  The opinion is styled, Ted Switzer v. State Farm Lloyds.

Switzer held a property insurance contract with State Farm covering his residential property.  This case arises from Switzer’s claim for coverage benefits due to damage to his property caused by a hailstorm on May 27, 2020.  Based upon allegations that State Farm improperly failed to satisfy its insurance coverage liability, Switzer asserted causes of action for breach of the insurance contract, violation of the Texas Insurance Code , Section 541 for unfair settlement practices, violation of the Prompt Payment Act in Texas Insurance Code, Section 542, violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, (DTPA) breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing, and common law fraud.

State Farm filed this Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on the causes of action of violation of the Texas Insurance Code, Section 541 for unfair settlement practices, violation of the DTPA, breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing, and common law fraud.  State Farm also seeks summaryjudgment dismissal of Switzer’s claim for exemplary damages based upon these causes of action.  In his response, Switzer concedes summary judgment is appropriate on the causes of action of fraud and violation of the DTPA.  Consequently, summary judgment on these two causes of action will be granted.

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