Articles Posted in Home Owners Policies

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.

Insurance lawyers need to know the various ways other insurance lawyers have attempted to pursue an insurance company and the ways that work and the ways that do not or have not worked.  Here is a different approach that failed to work.

This is an opinion from the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division.  It is styled, Corinne Pearson v. Allstate Fire and Casualty Insurance Co.

Corinne filed suit in State Court alleging Allstate improperly denied or underpaid a claim after a storm damaged her home.  Allstate removed the case to this Federal Court and obtained an abatement pending an appraisal of the damage to her home.  In June 2019, the Court was notified that appraisal had been completed and the case was reopened.  Allstate immediately filed this motion for summary judgment.

What is a First Party claim versus a Third Party claim?

A “first party” policy typically involves insurance that provides policy benefits directly to the insured or beneficiary in the event of a loss.  The Texas Insurance Code, Section 541.051(2) defines “first party claim” as a claim “by an insured or policyholder under an insurance policy or contract or by a beneficiary named in the policy or contract that must be paid by insurer directly to the insured or beneficiary.  These types of policies generally include health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, auto policy insurance, homeowner’s property insurance, and commercial property insurance.

In contrast, “third party coverage” is generally considered to include all forms of liability insurance.  This type of insurance is designed to insure against loss to third parties caused by the insured or another covered person for whom the covered person may be legally responsible.

Spring is coming soon and exclusions in homeowner policies for “surface and ground water damage” will be an issue an insurance lawyer must be able to discuss with client.

Here is a November 2019, opinion from the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, that “kinda” addresses this issue.  The opinion is styled, Robert Salcetti v. AIG Property Casualty Company.

Salcetti suffered damage to his home after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided to release water from reservoirs and Salcetti alleges that water entered his home causing significant damage.

Here is a homeowners claim that has a different twist to it.  The case is from the Southern District of Texas, Corpus Christi Division, and is styled, Kenneth Stokley v. Allstate Texas Lloyds.

In this case the Plaintiff, Stokley filed a Motion to Compel Appraisal and Allstate is trying to avoid the appraisal claiming the appraisal provision in the insurance policy should not be enforced because Stokley delayed his request for appraisal and Allstate is prejudiced by the delay and Stokley already made repairs and thus, waived the appraisal.

Mere delay is not enough to find waiver; Allstate must show prejudice.  Allstate argues Stokley intentionally delayed to increase pre-judgement interest to accrue on damages.

Insurance lawyers got good news about a month earlier, on April 8, 2019.  The case they got good news out of was from the Western District of Texas, Austin Division.  The style of the opinion was River Of Life Assembly Of God v. Church Mutual Insurance Company and Jim Turner Harris.

The style of this case is still the same but the Court amended its order and the language added to the opinion does a good job of articulating the reasoning in the opinion.  This new language and amended order is helpful for insurance lawyers helping insureds in similar situations.

This was a lawsuit about insurance coverage for storm damage.  River of Life had sued Church and the adjuster, Harris, for the way the claim was handled.  The suit was filed in State Court because Church is diverse and Harris is not.  Pursuant to Texas Insurance Code, Section 542A.006(c), Church elected to accept responsibility for Harris and removed the case to Federal Court.  The statute requires River of Life to dismiss its claims against Harris after this election to accept responsibility for Harris.  So the issue here was whether it was proper to remand the case back to the State Court or to keep it in this Federal Court.

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