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Saturday, January 18, 2020

Justices uphold appointment of umpire in State Farm insurance appraisal dispute

State Court

By Marian Johns | Sep 17, 2019


HOUSTON — A Texas appeals court has upheld a trial court's appointment of an umpire in an insurance claim appraisal dispute while dismissing the insured's appeal of sanctions against her attorney and his firm for lack of jurisdiction. 

According to the Sept. 10 Texas 14th Court of Appeals ruling, Jada Etienne filed an appeal of a lower court's appointment of an umpire after she and State Farm Lloyds could not agree on the appraisals related to her insurance claim. Etienne also appealed the sanctions placed on her attorney and his firm by State Farm for filing a pleading with no basis for fact. 

"We therefore conclude that the trial court had both the jurisdiction and the discretion to appoint an umpire before dismissing Etienne’s claims, and we affirm the portion of the judgment appointing an umpire," the appeals court stated in its decision. 

Etienne filed suit alleging State Farm Lloyds would not participate in the appraisal provision of her policy, which called for the appointment of an umpire to resolve any differences in appraisals. State Farm responded by asking the court to appoint an umpire, which was granted. 

Etienne, however, attempted to vacate the order, alleging the trial court lost jurisdiction when she filed a notice of non-suit several hours prior to the court's appointment of the umpire. The trial court denied Etienne's motion and ordered her attorney to pay State Farm $4,000 in attorney fees as sanctions. 

"We conclude that the trial court acted within its jurisdiction and discretion in appointing an umpire; thus, we affirm the appointment order, which was merged into the final judgment," the appeals court ruled.  "Because the insured lacks standing to appeal the order sanctioning her trial counsel and his law firm, and neither the attorney nor the firm have appealed the order, we dismiss that portion of the appeal for lack of jurisdiction."

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