Liability Of Insurance Agents

Texas insurance law lawyers should be able to turn to the Insurance Code and know this section that relates to insurance agents.  The section is 4001.053.  It says an agent also may be personally liable for performing acts on behalf of an insurance company.  This is supported with case law from the Texas Supreme Court in the 1998 opinion styled, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company v. Garrison Contractors, Inc.

While an individual agent is subject to being sued under the statute, for the agent to be liable there must be proof that the agent himself committed a violation that caused damage to the plaintiff.  This is what was stated in the 2004, 5th Circuit opinion styled, Hornbuckle v. State Farm Lloyds.

Here is an example from the Garrison Contractors opinion.   An agent personally carried out the transaction that formed the core of the unfair insurance practices complaint.  The agent was responsible for explaining premiums and was required to have a measure of expertise.  He was a “person” engaged in the “business of insurance” and could be liable under the statute.  On the other hand, clerical employees, who have no responsibility for policy sales and servicing and no special insurance expertise, are not “engaged in the insurance business,” and thus, would not be personally liable under this rationale.  The same reasoning should apply to other statutes, like the unfair discrimination statute, that include similar definitions.

Arguably, a person that would not normally be liable for breach of contract, discrimination, or failure to promptly pay a claim could become liable in the place of the insurer in these circumstances.

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