The Northern District, Dallas Division, issued an opinion on a case dealing with removal to Federal Court and a Motion To Remand. The opinion is styled, Arrow Bolt & Electric, Inc. v. Landmark American Insurance Company and Jason Keen.
Arrow filed suit in in State Court to recover for damages caused in a storm to property it owned in Fort Worth. Arrow alleged that Landmark and Keen (the adjuster) wrongfully denied its claim, breached the insurance contract and violated various duties of the Texas Insurance Code.
Landmark removed the case to Federal Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 1332 and 1441 on the ground that there is complete diversity of citizenship and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. Landmark contends Keen, a Texas resident, was improperly joined in an effort to defeat diversity of citizenship.
Landmark now has to demonstrate to the Court there is no possibility of recovery by Arrow against Keen and there is no reasonable basis for the Court to predict Arrow might be able to recover against Keen.
Arrow had to show the Court that they could recover against Keen. Because Texas law recognizes that an adjuster can potentially be liable for Texas Insurance Code violations, the sole issue before the Court is whether or not Arrow has stated a viable claim against Keen.
The Court determined that Arrow has sufficiently pled that Keen violated Texas Insurance Code, Section 541.060(a). With respect to its allegations that Keen engaged in unfair settlement practices by conducting an inadequate inspection and unfair adjustment, Arrow specifically alleges:
Defendant Landmark assigned Keen as the independent claim adjuster and estimator to determine the extent of the damages suffered by Plaintiff. Defendant Keen, who inspected The Property, made numerous errors in estimating the value of Plaintiff’s claim, all of which were designed to intentionally minimize and underpay the loss incurred by Plaintiff. Defendant Keen failed to fully quantify Plaintiff’s damages, and instead, grossly undervalued the loss, demonstrating that he did not conduct a thorough investigation of Plaintiff’s claim. Defendant Keen conducted a substandard inspection of The Property evidenced by his report which failed to include all of Plaintiff’s storm damages noted upon inspection. The damages included in the estimate were grossly undervalued and did not allow for adequate funds to cover the cost of repairs to all the damages sustained. Defendant Keen failed to thoroughly review and properly supervise the inspection of The Property which ultimately led to approving an improper adjustment and an inadequately unfair settlement of Plaintiff’s claim. Further, Defendant Keen knowingly and intentionally overlooked damages at The Property and used their [sic] own inadequate and biased investigation as the basis for erroneously denying a portion of Plaintiff’s claim. As a result of Defendant Keen’s conduct, Plaintiff’s claim was underpaid and partially-denied. Without basis and with intent to damage the Plaintiff, Defendant Keen concluded that the admitted water intrusion throughout the sub surface of the roof was not the result of the admitted damage to roof caused by the windstorm. This wrong determination was intentionally made to undervalue the claim.
Contrary to Landmark’s assertions, these allegations are not so conclusory and vague as to be fatal to Arrow’s ability to state a claim for relief.
The case was remanded.