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Don D. Martinson Argues In Re Universal Underwriters before Texas Supreme Court

Texas Insurance Case Has Broad Implications for Insurers and Consumers
Fanning Harper’s Don D. Martinson argues In Re Universal Underwriters before Texas Supreme Court

AUSTIN, Texas – A case currently pending before the Supreme Court of Texas could dramatically change the Texas insurance market, says attorney Don D. Martinson, counsel to Universal Underwriters of Texas Insurance Company, one of the parties in the case.

Mr. Martinson, a name partner in Dallas-based Fanning Harper Martinson Brandt & Kutchin P.C., argued the case, In re Universal Underwriters of Texas Insurance Company, No. 10-0238, on Wednesday, December 8, 2010, before the state’s highest appellate court. Mr. Martinson says he is hopeful the Supreme Court will stand by its previous decisions to uphold insurance company appraisal clauses.

The Supreme Court of Texas has been a proponent of using appraisal as a tool to resolve first party insurance contract disputes,” Mr. Martinson says. “The enforcement of the appraisal clause is important to the property insurers, which makes it, by extension, important to Texas businesses and property owners.”

In re Universal Underwriters reached the Supreme Court from Texas’ 2nd Court of Appeals in Fort Worth. The case was originally heard in Tarrant County’s 141st District Court.

Grubbs Infiniti Ltd., a Euless-based car dealership, sued Universal Underwriters over what it claimed was an insufficient payment for hail damage to the dealership’s roof. Universal contended the lawsuit should not go forward until Grubbs first submitted to an appraisal of the amount of loss caused by the hail damage. Grubbs contends that Universal Underwriters unreasonably delayed invoking the appraisal clause, and waived its contractual right to do so.

The case has implications beyond the two parties, Mr. Martinson says.

“The purpose of appraisal provisions is to resolve disputes such as this one quickly and efficiently,” he says. “If the Supreme Court lessens the burden of proof for establishing waiver of this contractual right to appraisal set forth in its previous decisions, litigation costs will increase for insurers as well as for insureds whose businesses are the lifeblood of the Texas economy.”

Fanning Harper is a Dallas-based law firm serving clients inside and outside the insurance industry with legal expertise in areas including contract disputes, labor and employment, governmental entities, construction, business and commercial disputes, professional liability, premises liability, motor vehicle and trucking accidents, products liability, toxic tort, school issues, appellate law, arbitration, and estate planning. To view the video of Mr. Martinson’s appearance before the Supreme Court of Texas, click this link.