HOUSTON – A Texas insurance company is holding its ground as the 1st Court of Appeals affirmed a take-nothing decision by a lower court Jan. 31, negating the $13 million sought by a hurricane-damaged city.
League City sought $13 million from Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA) for insurance policy and Texas Insurance Code violations. League City claimed TWIA failed to pay for damages to its buildings caused by Hurricane Ike in 2008. The significant case was the first involving a municipality that went to a jury trial for Hurricane Ike-related insurance complaints.
Hurricane Ike hit Texas in September 2008 as a Category 2 hurricane with sustained winds of 110 mph. Hurricane Ike caused billions of dollars of damage as it swept through the Gulf Coast and Texas.
The jury found in favor of League City on the points of TWIA’s insurance policy violations and failure to adhere to Texas Insurance Code. However, the jury also found in favor of TWIA on the complaints that the city did not provide notice of damage or proper documentation of damage repair expenses. As a result of the jury’s finding, the $13 million suit ended in a take-nothing decision.
Former Texas Supreme Court justice Dale Wainwright was a member of the Bracewell team that defended TWIA. And when the decision was appealed, Wainwright argued the case before the 1st Court of Appeals.
“We convinced the judge that the jury’s verdict meant that there should be a take-nothing judgment,” Wainwright told The Record. “The court of appeals agreed that the take-nothing judgment should be affirmed.”
TWIA did pay more than $750,000 for claims submitted by League City following the Hurricane Ike. However, nearly four years later and without notice, League City filed suit for allegedly unresolved claims.
“Texas Windstorm is committed to satisfying its obligations to its insured,” said Wainwright. “They’re going to do their job and if there’s a claim that’s not covered, they’re not going to pay out money that they shouldn’t.”
Wainwright’s team utilized an affirmative defense during the 26-day trial. The affirmative defense argued that while the jury found in favor of the plaintiff on the original complaints, as the defendants, they proved additional points that the affirmative violated, thus canceling out the complaints against TWIA.
“They’re [the affirmative defenses] the important takeaways from this opinion,” said Wainwright. “Our insurance policy requires the insured to properly give us notice of the damages the insured believed are covered by the policy and provide a description of the property damaged.”
Less than a month after his significant win, Wainwright announced he left Bracewell where he had been since 2012 to join the international firm Greenberg Traurig. The former Texas Supreme Court justice is now the chair of the Texas appellate practice group, which is comprised of more than 80 lawyers. Wainwright also serves on the board of directors of the U.S. Chamber Litigation Center and is the Chairman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice.