Texas Supreme Court Analysis of USAA v. Menchaca

Background

USAA Texas Lloyds Co. v. Menchaca, No. 14-0721, on petition for review from the Court of Appeals for the Thirteenth District of Texas, was argued on October 11, 2016 and decided on April 7, 2017.[1]

After Hurricane Ike struck in September 2008, Gail Menchaca contacted her homeowner’s insurance company, USAA Texas Lloyds (“USAA”), to report damage to her home.  Upon investigation, USAA’s adjuster found only minimal damage.  USAA determined its policy covered some of the damage, but declined to pay Menchaca any benefits because the total estimated repair costs did not exceed the policy’s deductible. About five months later, at Menchaca’s request, USAA sent another adjuster to re-inspect the property.  This adjuster confirmed the first adjuster’s findings, and USAA again refused to pay any policy benefits. Read More ›

The Decline of Res Ipsa Loquitur Actions in Texas

Introduction

The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur is derived from the Latin phrase “the thing speaks for itself.”  Res ipsa loquitur is a mechanism by which a plaintiff can establish a defendant's negligence, absent sufficient evidence to prove such negligence.[1] However, recent decisions indicate Texas courts are placing a heavier burden on plaintiffs attempting to prove negligence through res ipsa loquitur. Consequently, Texas courts are hesitant to infer a defendant's negligence merely on a plaintiff's assertion of res ipsa loquitur. Read More ›

House Bill 62: Texting Ban and the Standard It Sets

Introduction

On September 1, 2017, Texas House Bill 62 (“HB 62”) will go into effect, prohibiting reading, writing or sending electronic messages while operating a motor vehicle.[1]  In a civil action following a motor vehicle accident, if a plaintiff can prove a driver violated this law, they will no longer be tasked with establishing a duty and breach, as required in a negligence cause of action.  Instead, under negligence per se, plaintiffs are relieved of proving a reasonable person would have acted differently.  HB 62 sets the standard of care and plaintiffs must simply prove the violation was the proximate cause of the resulting damages. Read More ›

Certificate of Merit Requirements in Texas

Introduction

Under Texas law, in actions for damages arising out of the provision of professional services by a licensed or registered professional, the plaintiff must file a certificate of merit with the original petition.[1]  The purpose of the statute is to deter and quickly end nonmeritorious claims.[2]  The actions creating the claim do not need to “constitute the provision of professional services,” instead, “the acts creating the claim must ‘aris[e] out of the provision of professional services.”[3]  If a plaintiff's cause of action involves a professional's education, training, and experience in applying special knowledge or judgment, it “arises out of the provision of professional services.”[4]  Failure to file the affidavit with the complaint will result in dismissal with or without prejudice.[5]  Although a trial court is required to dismiss a complaint if the plaintiff does not file a certificate of merit, it may use its discretion to determine whether to dismiss with or without prejudice.[6] Read More ›

Smith, Hines, and Archer: The Evolution of the Motion to Transfer Venue for Convenience from Galveston to Houston under 28 U.S.C. § 1440(a)

Introduction

Motions to transfer venue for convenience under Federal Rule § 1404(a) are historically difficult to obtain because of the great amount of discretion judges may exercise in ruling on the motion. Not only are motions to transfer venue for convenience often difficult to obtain, the outcome is almost impossible to predict.  Especially when dealing with intra-district transfers, Courts within the Southern District of Texas have been historically hesitant to grant such transfers. Read More ›

DTPA Claims: Upstream Liability and Subrogee Standing

Introduction

While the legislative purpose underpinning the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA) urges flexible interpretation and application, the DTPA was neither intended to impose liability on upstream parties nor provide a separate cause of action for assignees and subrogees seeking to recover from large consumer businesses.  The Texas Supreme Court has mandated a liberal construction of the DTPA[1] to “protect consumers against false, misleading, and deceptive business practices, unconscionable actions, and breaches of warranty and to provide efficient and economical procedures to secure such protection.”[2]  However, the Legislature intended there to be limits on the DTPA, including its scope of liability and standing requirements.[3] Read More ›

Texas House and Senate Pass Limits on Weather Claim Lawsuits

On Wednesday, May 17, the Texas Senate approved House Bill 1774.  This bill will undoubtedly be signed by Governor Greg Abbott.  He is a very conservative Republican. Governor Abbott called lawsuits against insurers following hailstorms “the newest form of lawsuit abuse.” He also said he wanted to see legislation on his desk “that limits abusive hailstorm litigation.”  Well, now he has that very bill to sign into law. Read More ›

Restriction of Access to Information Even Under FOIA

Introduction

Six states currently have statutes restricting access to public records to citizens of only that state: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Missouri, New Hampshire, Tennessee and Virginia.[1]  The Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA) is a federal law which gives citizens the right to access information from the government.[2]  The purpose of FOIA is “to ensure an informed citizenry, vital to the functioning of a democratic society, needed to check against corruption and to hold the governors accountable to the governed.”[3]  However, in 2013, the United States Supreme Court held there is no constitutional right to obtain all the information provided by FOIA.[4] Read More ›

General Contractors and the Extension of Liability

A General Contractor generally does not owe a duty of care to employees of a Subcontractor.[1]  The courts have held that a duty arises only if the defendant retains or actually exercises some control over the manner in which the independent contractor performs its work.[2] Read More ›

Texas Railroad Commission File Effect on Tolling of the Statute of Limitations

Preventing the tolling of the statute of limitations per the discovery rule or fraudulent concealment is extremely important to Texas defendants. Records on file with the Texas Railroad Commission (“TRC”) have a significant effect on whether plaintiffs can use these doctrines to toll the statute of limitations. Namely, when publicly available TRC files could have alerted a plaintiff of its cause of action, the plaintiff is typically not allowed to use the discovery rule or fraudulent concealment to toll the statute of limitations. Read More ›

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