Negligent Claims Handling

Here is a summary judgment case from the Eastern District, Sherman Division, where one of the causes of action is, negligent claims handling.  The case is styled, Yoram Avneri v. Hartford Fire Insurance Company.

Here, the Court had previously denied Hartford’s motion for summary judgement but is now reconsidering the ruling.  After the reconsideration the Court withdrew its previous ruling and granted it in part and denied in part.

Avneri suffered hail and wind storm damage at his property in Denton, Texas, that was insured through a Hartford policy.  Avneri submitted the claim which was denied by Hartford based on their assertion that the damage, if any, did not exceed the policy deductible.  Avneri filed suit in State Court and Hartford removed the case to Federal Court where it filed its motion.

Federal Rule 56(a) says summary judgment is proper when the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to any judgment as a matter of law.  A dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.  Substantive law identifies which facts are material.  The moving party bears the initial burden of identifying the basis for its motion and identifying evidence that demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.

If the moving party satisfies its burden, the nonmovant must present affirmative evidence showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.  Mere denials of facts, unsworn allegations, or arguments and assertions in briefs will not suffice to carry this burden.  The Court must consider all of the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, with all reasonable inferences from the evidence made in favor of the nonmovant.  However, the Court must refrain from making any credibility determinations or weighing the evidence.

Here, Avneri asserted a claim against Hartford for negligent claims handling.  Hartford says Texas law does not recognize such a claim.  This Court agreed and finds such a claim does not exist under Texas law.  Further, Avneri abandoned his negligence claim when he failed to respond to Hartford’s argument that such a claim did not exist.  As a result, Avneri’s claim fails as a matter of law.

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