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Houston Partner Obtains Unanimous Jury Verdict in First Party Property Trial

Houston partner Martin R. Sadler recently won an eight juror unanimous verdict in the Northern District of Texas, Fort Worth Division.

The case involved a residential property insurance claim arising from a notable weather storm event with rain and wind in June 2016. At that time a large tree on the plaintiff’s own property fell across a corner of her house above the garage and the craft room. The insured’s home had a concrete tile roof that is no longer being manufactured, and plaintiff claimed that the entire roof had to be replaced because substitution tiles were no longer available.

Plaintiff’s complete roof replacement argument was dismissed by summary judgment in July 2019 when the court agreed that the relevant policy language only required the carrier to pay to repair the damaged portion of the roof.

At that time, the court also found there was a genuine issue of material fact remaining over the appropriate cost to repair damage to the rafters and the interior of the garage and craft room, as well as whether the carrier’s payments on the claim were timely under the Texas Prompt Payment of Claims Act (TPPCA) leaving potential exposure to statutory interest at 18 percent per year plus attorneys’ fees.

The jury returned a defense verdict on all remaining claims, finding that there was no breach of contract by our client, and that the carrier did not delay payment on the claim for more than 60 days. The jury found that our client had all necessary information it had reasonably requested from the insured to accept or deny the claim on March 8, 2017—just one day before the first payment on the claim was made.

Our client later made a business decision to pay for the complete replacement of the two slopes of the roof that had been impacted by the tree, issuing a supplemental payment on May 2, 2017—still within 60 days of March 8, 2017.  As such, the jury’s answers establish that our client had paid what was owed on the claim within the statutory time limit and there could be no recovery for statutory interest or attorneys’ fees.

Marty focuses his practice on first party property insurance coverage, bad faith claim litigation and catastrophe litigation including commercial and residential hurricane, wind and hail losses. He has also represented insurance companies in litigation under a variety of policies, including builder’s risk, boiler and machinery coverage, commercial general liability, commercial and individual automobile liability, and claims under policies affording coverage for rarities and collectibles.