Litigation brought by a Jefferson County insurance agent claiming numerous insurance companies breached their contract with him to extort money has been slated for trial in May.

As previously reported, Gaines L. Wullenwaber filed a lawsuit March 31, 2010, in Jefferson County District Court.

The defendants first named include Jefferson County Farm Bureau, Texas Farm Bureau, Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Co., Farm Bureau County Mutual Insurance Company of Texas, Texas Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co., Texas Farm Bureau Underwriters, Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Co., Texas Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Co., Texas Farm Bureau Mutual Brokerage Agency, Cody D. Woodul, Gary B. Workman and Texas Windstorm Insurance Association.

Court records show that on Feb. 8 an agreed amended discovery control plan order was entered in the case, slating the suit for trial sometime in May.

Court records further show that discovery is still ongoing in the case and depositions are still being sought.

In his suit, Wullenwaber claims he began working as an independent insurance agent selling various insurance policies to clients under a contract he entered into with the defendants. Under the terms of the contract, Wullenwaber should have been treated as an independent contractor and should have been allowed to control his daily activities, to decide who he would issue insurance policies to and to determine when and how often he would solicit insurance policies to clients.

When Wullenwaber initially began working, Jefferson County Farm Bureau provided him with rent, services, office supplies and secretarial work at no cost, the suit states.

However, the longer Wullenwaber worked as an independent contractor, the more the companies began to demand from him. For example, after initially providing Wullenwaber with free rent, Jefferson County Farm Bureau decided to start charging him $300 per month on Jan. 30, 2007, the complaint says.

According to the suit, agency manager Woodul demanded Wullenwaber and other agents sell additional life insurance policies, but began to limit the number of property, casualty and homeowners’ insurance policies Wullenwaber could write.

In his suit, Wullenwaber claims such actions are a violation of his contract, which should have allowed Wullenwaber to determine when and how often he would solicit policies to his clients. In fact, district sales manager Workman threatened to terminate Wullenwaber if he failed to sell more life insurance policies.

Wullenwaber also claims agents are the victims of a conspiracy under the Farm Bureau Insurance Companies.

According to Wullenwaber’s complaint, agency manager Woodul would terminate independent agents, then take over their clients and accounts, thus increasing his profit. Woodul and Workman began firing agents who arrived to meetings late or who did not meet a quota for selling a certain number of life insurance policies.

“As such Defendant Cody D. Woodul had a clear and conflicting motive and profit interest to terminate other ‘Independent Contractor’ agents such as Plaintiff, as well as other agents,” the suit states.

“Despite the Farm Bureau Insurance Companies’ and Farm Bureaus’ knowledge of this type of conduct taking place, such Defendants did nothing to insure that such practices did not take place to the injury and damages of Plaintiff and other agents similarly situated.”

The complaint says in a further attempt to increase his own income, Woodul removed Wullenwaber from the duty roster at the offices of the Jefferson County Farm Bureau on March 16, 2009. Such a move manipulated the walk-in or phone call customers Wullenwaber could assist and increased Woodul’s revenues instead.

Wullenwaber alleges breach of contract; fraud; insurance code violations; Deceptive Trade Practices Act violations; tortious interference with existing contracts; tortious interference with prospective business relationships; promissory estoppel; theft of trade secrets; breach of fiduciary duties; conspiracy; assiting, encouraging, aiding and abetting; and Texas business and commerce code violations.

In his 13-count suit, Wullenwaber seeks actual, treble, punitive and exemplary damages, plus attorneys’ fees, costs, pre- and post-judgment interest and other relief the court deems just.

Mark Faggard of Beaumont represents him.

The case is assigned to Judge Bob Wortham, 58th District Court.

Case No. A186-436

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