HOUSTON – Dozens of Texas lawyers, judges and insurance professionals gathered at the downtown federal courthouse on Monday to hear how a Restatement of the Law of Liability Insurance can be used as a resource for Lone Star courts and attorneys.
For the better part of a decade, The American Law Institute labored to finalize the restatement, which, according to ALI, seeks to address the complex rules adopted and applied by the courts in insurance coverage litigation.
Chief Judge Lee Rosenthal of the U.S. District Court for Southern Texas hosted the event, which featured several expert panelists, including Tom Baker – a Pennsylvania Law School professor who devoted a decade of his life to the creation of the restatement.
In her opening remarks, Rosenthal told the crowd she wasn’t present to “endorse” the restatement as a court but to make the work known as a “resource.”
Next to speak was panelist Vincent Morgan, an attorney at Pillsbury Law in Houston, who told those in attendance that the panel looked at issues where Texas Law on Insurance is “unsettled, inconsistent or nonexistent.”
“I don’t know if the restatement will have an impact on Texas law like previous restatements … it might help Texas to be more consistent with other states,” Morgan said.
Baker followed and was quick to point out that “Texas has a lot of insurance law” and is possibly the only state that can “battle” California as the state with the most jurisprudence.
Baker said the restatement is an ALI product representing its considered views and that he thinks the work can be a training document for young lawyers.
For an hour and a half, the panel discussed several sections of the restatement, exploring issues such as an “insurer’s duty to make reasonable settlements,” for example.
“Let’s be real,” Baker said. “Reasonable people don’t settle these cases – reasonable insurers do.”
The panel also discussed a restatement section detailing an “insurer’s duty to defend,” a topic that provoked strong crowd reactions and an animated response from panelist Brian Martin, an insurance attorney at Thompson Coe, who said insurance companies in Texas have a right to deny that duty.
“And if it was wrong to deny, we are going to get sued,” Martin said.
ALI, a Philadelphia-based group of judges, academics and lawyers, approved the restatement in May 2018.