In May 2013, a Jefferson County jury found National Lloyds Insurance committed deceptive trade practices in the handling of a policy claim following Hurricane Ike, awarding the plaintiff in the civil suit nearly $1 million in damages.
On Thursday, justices seated on Texas’ Ninth Court of appeals affirmed the lower court judgment that followed and modified the amount of damages awarded.
The trial focused on whether National Lloyds Insurance and Compass Adjusting Services failed to fully compensate Latosha Lewis following Hurricane Ike.
Lewis had filed suit against the two companies on Sept. 9, 2010, in Jefferson County District Court. The case went to trial on April 29, 2013 and ended May 20, 2013.
Court records show jurors found National Lloyds failed to honor its policy with Lewis, engaged in deceptive trade practices when handling her claim, and are guilty of breach of good faith dealing.
Jurors awarded Lewis $265,757 in actual and additional damages, $300,000 in exemplary damages and $350,000 in fees to her attorney Clint Brasher.
The presiding judge, Judge Gary Sanderson of the 6oth District Court, rendered judgment on the jury’s verdict on June 27, 2013, awarding Lewis the sum of $871,738.06, plus taxable court costs, post-judgment interest, and conditional appellate attorneys’ fees.
In September 2013, National Lloyds appealed, challenging:
- The legal sufficiency of the evidence supporting the jury’s findings for causation and damages;
- Judge Sanderson’s inclusion in the charge of an instruction regarding waiver and its refusal to include an instruction on spoliation; and
- His rendition of a judgment that allegedly failed to force Lewis to make an election of remedies.
According to the opinion, the Ninth Court modified Judge Sanderson’s judgment to award Lewis Deceptive Trade Practices Act damages of $200,468.07, trial attorney’s fees in the amount of $300,000, appellate attorney’s fees in the amount of $20,000, contingent appellate attorney’s fees for proceedings in the Supreme Court if National Lloyds petitions for review, prejudgment interest in the amount of $15,822.24, prompt payment damages of $45,791.13, costs of $20,563.05, and post-judgment interest at the rate of five percent.
According to the lawsuit, on Sept. 13, 2008, Ike struck, causing serious damage to Lewis’ property. Following the hurricane, she filed a claim with Lloyds, needing compensation to repair her Beaumont home.
“The claim was not properly investigated or paid,” the suit states. “Lloyds hired Compass to adjust the claim. The adjuster assigned to the claim failed to conduct a thorough and complete inspection of the property.”
According to testimony during the trial, Lewis’ roof was previously damaged during Hurricane Rita. Her insurer compensated her and recommended she replace the roof. However, she used the money to repair the roof instead.
On May 8, 2013, the jury heard testimony from one of the defendants’ adjusters, who testified Lewis would have had to replace her roof after Hurricane Rita to compensate for roof damages following Hurricane Ike, since the insurer does not pay for damages twice.
On appeal, Lewis’ counsel argued that at the root level, “this is a simple case: before Hurricane Ike, Latosha Lewis’s roof did not leak; after Ike, her roof leaked every time it rained, despite all of her efforts at repairs.
“National Lloyds refused to pay anything for her Ike claim and, at the same time, gave invalid reasons for denying coverage,” the brief states.
Thereafter, Lewis’s home deteriorated and ultimately to be completely demolished and rebuilt. This case is also a poster child for why many people do not trust insurance companies.”
Lewis is represented in part by Beaumont attorney Clint Brasher.
Trial case No. B188-072
Appeals case No. 09-13-00413-CV