Moving Insurance Claims

A Fort Worth insurance attorney will want to know about specific cases and the way the courts handled the cases. Here is an example of a case that is not seen very often.
The style of the case is, Bekins Moving & Storage Co. v. Williams. This is a Texarkana Court of Appeals case. The opinion was issued in 1997.
Here is some of the relevant information:
In June of 1991, Jean Williams hired Bekins to move her household belongings from Dallas to her new home in Quitman. Bekins subcontracted the actual moving of her property, which included an antique square piano and a large amount of china, crystal, and other fragile items, to Melvin & Benny’s Movers, a smaller local mover. The movers dropped, broke, cracked, and otherwise damaged various pieces of Williams’ property. She tried to get Bekins to pay for the damage, but was unsuccessful. Bekins did make an offer to settle that was substantially below her claim, and she refused to accept.
She eventually filed suit under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Texas Insurance Code. She prevailed at trial. Bekins filed an appeal citing 27 points of error. Only a couple will be discussed here.
As it relates to the Texas DTPA:
The following facts are relied on by Williams to prove that Bekins made false and deceptive acts that caused her damages. Williams accepted a bid from Bekins, one of the three companies she contacted, based on representations by Nola Leverenz that Bekins would wrap all her furniture; that if anything of a set was broken, Bekins would replace the set; that if Bekins destroyed or broke any item, it would replace it; that Bekins had a good record; that it would provide her with insurance; that it would employ professionals to move her piano; that her furniture would be wrapped and packed; and that cleaning service would be provided. Based on these representations about Bekins’ methods and procedures, Williams testified that she then solicited a bid from Bekins, which she eventually accepted. She also testified that without such assurances of professionalism in her move, she would not have employed Bekins to move her property.
In finding for Williams, the Court said:
The representations were made by an agent of the business in order to obtain Williams’ business, and no independent relationship is relevant to this situation. In the absence of such attenuation, the evidence does not show as a matter of law a lack of producing cause, nor is the evidence of producing cause factually insufficient. If the representations made by Bekins caused Williams to enter into a contract, the performance of which damaged her property, the representations were a producing cause of her damages.
Bekins next contends that the trial court erred by denying its motion for summary judgment, motion for directed verdict, and motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, because its activities in selling “transit insurance” are not covered by the Insurance Code. Bekins’ argument revolves around its general contention that the kind of transit insurance it sells is not insurance within the meaning of the Insurance Code.
As to the contention that Bekins’ transit insurance is not insurance within the meaning of the Insurance Code, at trial both Bekins’ representative and its attorney referred to the coverage as insurance. Bekins now contends that it was not providing insurance, but that its provision for payment of the property’s “declared value” in case of loss or damage was merely incidental to its ordinary business activity. Bekins argued an Insurance Code section that says the making of a contract of guaranty or suretyship agreement that is merely incidental to another legitimate business does not constitute doing business as an insurer.
Guaranty and suretyship are collateral agreements to perform an undertaking, i.e., to perform if the person liable in the first instance fails to perform. If the undertaking is joint with the principal obligor, it is a suretyship. If it is a separate and distinct contract, it is a guaranty.
The transit insurance provision in Bekins’ contract is not a guaranty or a suretyship.
It specifically provides for “insurance protection” in the sum of $75,000.00, for an “insurance protection charge” of $480.00. It provides for exclusions of liability in certain instances and provides that if the amount of insurance does not cover the actual value of the property, the customer shall be regarded as his own “insurer” to the extent of the difference. This Court construed the provision as insurance as it is designated, and not a guaranty or suretyship.
Bekins’ contract called the coverage insurance, its representative called it insurance, it was paid for as being insurance, the documents specified the amount of coverage, the parties both believed that Bekins was providing insurance, and the coverage was designed to pay Williams for damage to her property above the stated sixty cents per pound. Thus, the coverage was insurance and comes within the Insurance Code.

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