BEAUMONT – The Ninth Court of Appeals is set to review a State Farm Lloyds appeal, which seeks to wipe a $260k jury verdict on the grounds that the opinions of the plaintiff’s expert witnesses were “unreliable and inadmissible.”
The appeal stems from a week long trial against State Farm that took place in May 2015. The Mostyn Law Firm, on behalf of plaintiff Dennis Webb, landed a jury verdict totaling $260,000 in damages -- $165,000 of which was allotted to attorney’s fees.
The trial focused on whether State Farm fully compensated Webb after a pipe in his home burst and caused water and foundation damage.
The jury found that State Farm failed to comply with Webb’s insurance policy; and engaged in deceptive trade practices by failing to settle his claim fairly and refusing to pay a claim without conducting a reasonable investigation, court records show.
Jurors awarded Webb $95,000 in total damages, and also doled out $80,000 to the Mostyn Law Firm for representation in the trial court.
Jurors tacked on $50,000 if the case was appealed. For representation in the Texas Supreme Court, jurors assigned an additional $35,000.
State Farm appealed the court’s judgment last October. A year later, the case has been set for submission on briefs. Oral arguments were denied.
On appeal, State Farm argues:
- Whether the trial court abused its discretion in denying State Farm’s motion to exclude the testimony and opinions of Webb’s expert witness, Peter Rabner, when his testimony was not reliable under Texas Rule of Evidence 702. State Farm believes the evidence is legally and factually insufficient to support the jury’s breach of contract and damages findings;
- Whether the trial court erred in refusing to allow State Farm to introduce its claim adjuster’s field notes that documented cracks in the same kitchen tile during Webb’s 2008 Hurricane Ike claim, after his sole causation expert, Rabner, testified “nobody at the insurance company ever noticed cracks in the tile before” as the only objective data supporting his hypothesis that the absence of cracks until just before the 2012 leak established that the leak caused foundation movement; and
- Whether legally and factually insufficient evidence to support extra-contractual damages exists when Webb failed to introduce evidence of an injury independent of the denial of insurance policy benefits, and admitted he had not suffered any injury separate and apart from the denial of policy benefits.
“The insurer, State Farm, seeks a reversal and rendition of the trial court’s judgment because the opinions of the homeowner’s expert witnesses are unreliable and inadmissible,” states State Farm’s brief.
“Alternatively State Farm seeks reversal and remand due to the trial court’s error in excluding evidence and cross examination of Plaintiff’s expert about facts that contradicted the assumptions upon which his opinion was based.
State Farm also seeks reversal and rendition of that portion of the judgment awarding Appellee attorneys’ fees because the evidence supporting the attorney fee award was legally insufficient and unreliable.”
According to the original petition, on May 6, 2012, a plumbing pipe burst at Webb’s Beaumont home, causing significant water damage to his residence.
Webb then submitted a policy claim with State Farm, which in turn assigned adjusters, who were also named as defendants but non-suited before trial, to assess the damage.
The suit accused State Farm of failing to properly oversee the work of the adjusters and ultimately approving an inadequate and unfair settlement.
Beaumont attorney Gregory Cox of the Mostyn Law firm represents Webb.
The Mostyn law firm has made hundreds of millions of dollars suing insurance providers in the state of Texas.
Judge Kent Walston, 58th District Court, presided over the trial.
Case No. A194-468