Farmers Tex. Cty. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Zuniga, No. 04-16-00773-CV, 2017 Tex. App. LEXIS 8678 (App.—San Antonio Sep. 13, 2017) Summary The Fourth Court of Appeals has weighed-in on insurability of punitive damages in Farmers Texas County Mutual Insurance Co. v. Zuniga, et al. The court found that a Farmers auto insurance policy covering “damages for bodily injury” does not require the insurer to pay punitive damages awarded in a lawsuit against its insured. The court noted a distinction between damages for bodily injury and punitive damages in that damages for bodily injury are regarded as compensatory damages, while punitive damages are awarded to punish the person being sued. Thus, the court held that the policy language “damages for bodily injury” does not cover punitive damages. This holding will most likely be appealed to the Texas Supreme Court. Discussion Jennifer Zuniga sued Christopher Medina to recover damages she sustained when the vehicle Medina was driving struck Zuniga from behind as she was walking. A jury found Medina both negligent and grossly negligent, and awarded Zuniga … Continue reading
It has long been considered the law in Texas that recoverable damages for total destruction of property would not include loss-of-use damages. But in January, the Supreme Court of Texas held that there are instances in which a property owner with total destruction of its property can recover loss-of-use damages in addition to the fair-market-value damages otherwise recoverable. In J&D Towing, LLC v. American Alternative Ins. Corp., No. 14-0574 (Tex. Jan. 8, 2016), the plaintiff, a tow truck company whose only truck had been totally damaged in a car accident, sought lost profits during the period of time that the company was without a tow truck because the tortfeasor’s insurer refused to timely pay on the clear liability claim. The Court held that under the circumstances presented, the lost profit damages were not barred as a matter of law simply because the damage was a total loss; the tow truck company was entitled to seek the lost profits damages for the time the company was without a truck in the same way that it would … Continue reading
STAY TUNED: A Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Nov. 19 certified a question for the Texas Supreme Court as to whether an insured can pursue a private cause of action under Texas Insurance Code Chapter 541 if it is denied coverage by an insurer, holding that decisions from the state Supreme Court and its appellate courts have cast doubt on the vitality of the ruling in Vail v. Texas Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co.
In Peter Tsai and Barbara Tsai v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, 2015 Tex. App. LEXIS 11147, the First Court of Appeals addressed the applicability of the surface water exclusion. The Tsais do not argue that the term “surface water” is patently ambiguous. Instead, the Tsais indicated that exclusionary language became ambiguous when viewed in the context of the undisputed determination that the loss was caused when water migrated from the neighbor’s planter to underneath their hardwood floors. The court noted that surface water has been defined as “water or natural precipitation diffused over the surface of the ground until it either evaporates, is absorbed by the land, or reaches channels where water naturally flows.” The water that migrated under the Tsais’ flooring derived from rain and sprinkler water that had fallen onto the surface of the planter. After falling on the planter’s surface, the water did not follow a defined path or channel. Instead, it passed freely, moving through the upper two to three inches of mulch. It was not until the planter was “overwhelmed” … Continue reading
In LCS Corrections Services, Inc. v. Lexington Insurance Company, No. 14-40494 (5th Cir. 9/2/2015), the court concluded that Lexington was not required to defend LCS if the allegations in the complaint fell within the meaning of subpart (a) of the medical services exclusion. Relevant here, the medical services exclusion denied coverage of “any liability of the Insured arising out of the . . . failure to render ‘Medical Services.’” Thus, the court looked to whether the injury related to the failure to render “medical services” where “services” are defined as “medical, surgical, dental or nursing treatment.” Although LCS argued that Garcia died as a result of LCS’s adhering to its administrative policy, and not from a failure to render medical services, the court found the distinction proved unavailing. The court concluded that Garcia’s death was caused by the failure to provide a prescribed drug, which was a failure to render a professional service. “It may be true that no professional decision was made in denying medicine”, but “providing and administering medicine to an inmate in … Continue reading