Articles Posted in Home Owners Policies

Insurance claims often do not need an expert to help the case.  When an expert is needed, it is important to know how courts look at experts.  Here is a homeowners case wherein an expert is being used to bolster the case.  This is a 2022 opinion from the Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division.  The opinion is styled, FB & SB Leasing, LLC v. Chubb Lloyds Insurance Company of Texas.

In this firstparty insurance dispute involving a property experiencing plumbing problems and foundation issues, Chubb presents two reliability arguments to support excluding the opinion
testimony of Plaintiff FB &SB Leasing’s sole causation expert, Michael B. Couch Chubb urges first that Couch’s report provides insufficient information about his methodology.  Second, Chubb argues Couch relied on mistaken or incorrect underlying data when opining that there were multiple leaks at the property.  There’s no dispute that Couch’s testimony, if reliable, would be relevant. Chubb also doesn’t dispute Couch’s qualifications. As argued, and on this record, Chubb’s complaints go to the eventual weight a jury might afford the testimony and are most appropriately addressed at trial via cross-examination or through introduction of competing expert testimony.

As to the first argument, there’s no dispute that Couch inspected the property on multiple occasions and relied on a plumbing report that noted multiple breaks in plumbing lines.  Relying on this underlying data and his ample training and experience, Couch opined on the cause of the damage to the property.  This is sufficient given the parties arguments presented here.  The second of Chubb’s arguments relies on a distinction Chubb draws between leaks and breaksin plumbing, which on this record is an issue better reserved for cross examination at trial.  Both sides experts relied on the same plumbing report that noted multiple plumbing issues.  Even Defendant’s expert appears to use the terms break and leak interchangeably in his expert report. Moreover, Chubb didn’t depose Couch, which might have provided more detail and nuance on these issues to further inform a motion to exclude.  Accordingly, on this record and based on the arguments presented by Chubb, the Motion, is Denied Without Prejudice.  Chubb may re-urge its arguments later in the case, via a motion in limine or at trial.

Here, an insurance company refused to pay a claim based on their assertion that the insured customer failed to segregate damages.  The Judge agreed with the insurance company.  The opinion is from the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division.  It is styled, Svetlin Tchakarov and Popova Rossitza v. Allstate Indemnity Company.

The plaintiffs filed suit to recover damages from Allstate for wind and hair damage to the roof of their property.  Allstate moved for summary judgment based on Allstate’s assertion that Plaintiff’s have not provided evidence that would allow a jury to reasonably apportion the harm from the covered and non-covered causes of loss.

The relevant portion of the policy reads:

Here is a 2021, opinion from the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, wherein the insurance company missed a deadline and tried to excuse the mistake.  The styled of the opinion is, Aldo Cueller v. Safeco Insurance Company of Indiana.

Aldo sued Safeco in state court for breach of contract and various violations of the Texas Insurance Code after Safeco denied Also’s claim for water damage to is property.  After the deadline for removal passed, Safeco filed a Notice of Removal and Aldo responded with a Motion to Remand arguing the removal was untimely.

Aldo filed the suit on May 25, 2021, and served Safeco’s registered agent in Texas on June 4, 2021.

The Northern District of Texas, Fort Worth Division, decided a case in 2021 wherein the lawyer for insured did a good job of pleading his case.  The strange thing about this case is that it was filed in 2021, well after the new section of the Insurance Code was in effect, that being section 542A.  In section 542A, suing the adjuster has essentially been made something of the past, with rare exceptions.  However, it is not the issue in this case but the case still serves as a good example on how to name the insurance adjuster in such a way as to keep the case in State Court rather than being removed to Federal Court.

The style of the case is, Paradise Villas HOA, Inc. v. Amguard Insurance Company and Todd Anthony Gilmore.  Paradise is the insured, Amguard is the insurer, and Gilmore is the adjuster.

Paradise suffered alleged hail damage and properly reported the claim to Amguard.  Gilmore, a Texas Citizen, was assigned to adjust the claim and according to Paradise, Gilmore greatly under estimated the value of the claim.  A lawsuit was filed in State Court and Amguard caused the case to be removed to Federal Court alleging that Gilmore was improperly named in an effort to defeat diversity jurisdiction and asserting that the causes of action asserted against Gilmore could not stand.  Paradise filed a motion to remand which is the cause of this opinion.

Here is an interesting case dealing with hail damage.  This is a 2021, case from the San Antonio Court of Appeals.  It is styled, Allstate Vehicle And Property Insurance Company v. Peter Reininger.  The opinion is an appeal from a jury trial in favor of Reininger.

The opinion is lengthy and discusses several legal issues.  However, the facts of the case are pointed out here because the facts are similar to situations many other homeowners face themselves.

Reininger’s home had previously been covered by a policy issued by Liberty Mutual and that policy covered cosmetic hail damage to his metal roof.  When Reininger began looking for a new policy in 2015, he contacted Justin Losoya, an Allstate agent.  Reininger told Losoya he wanted a policy that was “apples to apples” with his Liberty Mutual policy, and Losoya stated Allstate could provide that. Reininger also asked Losoya, “If I have any bad weather, hail or any type of hail and it damaged my roof, am I covered?”  Losoya answered, “Yes, sir, Mr. Reininger, you are.  You pay a 1 percent deductible.”  Losoya did not mention any exclusions on coverage for the roof, and Reininger did not make any further inquiries about exclusions.

Here is a case from the Eastern District of Texas wherein the insureds did not show that the damages they received were the result of a covered damage.  The case is styled, Tim Whatley and Sheila Whatley v. Great Lakes Insurance, SE and McClelland & Hine, Inc.

In this case, the Whatleys are suing based on their assertion that they suffered damage to their home as a result of Hurricane Harvey.  The case was in Federal Court and had been referred to a Magistrate Judge, who issued a report granting Summary Judgment in favor of Great Lakes and McClelland.  The Whatley’s sought review of the finding made by the Magistrate Judge.

The Whatleys (Plaintiffs) presented four objections to the Report regarding their breach of contract claim.  First, Plaintiffs object “to the court’s finding and recommendation that there is no genuine issue of material fact to support the damage to ther oof and interior and interior of Plaintiffs’ home was caused by the windstorm conditions of Hurricane Harvey.”  Second, Plaintiffs “object to the court’s finding and recommendation that there are no genuine issues of fact to support the roof and interior home damage was caused by a covered peril.”  Third, Plaintiffs “object to the court’s finding and recommendation that there are no genuine issues of fact supporting causation; that the damage was caused by water through an opening created by the direct force of wind and hail.”  Finally, “Plaintiffs object to the court’s finding and recommendation that expert Lester Saucier’s opinions on causation are speculation.”

Texas homeowners have just experienced the worst loss state wide that has ever been experienced.  Homeowners will be reeling from the damage and hopefully the insurance companies treat all their customers fairly.  Unfortunately, there will be many customers who end up having their claim denied for one reason or another.

Here are some things to think about as it relates to weather related property claim.

After the historic and widespread property loss and damage resulting from the recent Texas freeze, home and business owners will be turning to their insurance provider for help.  Some of those insurance claims will be denied unfairly and property owners will turn to Texas Trial Lawyers Association (TTLA) members for assistance in getting their homes and businesses repaired.

Do homeowner insurance policies cover a collapse of the home?  It sounds like a simple question but as is illustrated in a 2020, opinion from the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, it is not as simple as it looks.

The opinion is styled, Beatrice Stewart v. Metropolitan Lloyds Insurance Company of Texas.  The case needs to be read to get the facts of the case, however, the facts end up being discussed in the relevant parts of the opinion discussed here.

Metropolitan insured Stewarts home.  Stewart experienced some structure problems with her home and turned in a claim to Metropolitan.  Metropolitan ultimately denied the claim stating there was no coverage under the wording of the policy.

Here is a homeowners claim from the Northern District of Texas, Amarillo Division, that is interesting.  The case is styled, Valerie Smith v. State Farm Lloyds.

This is a summary judgment opinion wherein State Farm asserts that it is entitled to summary judgment because it notified Smith two months before a fire destroyed her home that her homeowners policy had not been renewed.

Smith asserts she never received notice that the policy had expired.

Home owners claims are a frequent source of litigation.  Here is a case from the Northern District of Texas, Fort Worth Division, that has a little different twist to it.  The case is styled, Allen Ripley, et al v. State Farm Lloyds.

Ripley’s home was damaged by a hail storm and he was insured by State Farm.  A dispute arose about the damages and there was ultimately an appraisal award.  State Farm did not pay the full appraisal amount due to their assertion that part of the damages were not covered by the policy.  This lawsuit resulted with Ripley alleging breach of contract and various violations of the Texas Insurance Code.

State Farm filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.

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