Marchbanks v. Liberty Insurance Corp. (Per Curiam)

Annotate this Case
Justia Opinion Summary

The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that an insurer's payment of an appraisal award barred an insured's claims under the Texas Prompt Payment of Claims Act (TPPCA), Tex. Ins. Code chapter 542, holding that payment of an appraisal award does not extinguish TPPCA liability as a matter of law.

After Insured's property sustained hail and wind damage, Insurer valued the property damage at $387. Believing the damage was undervalued, Insured sued, alleging breach of contract and extra-contractual claims. Insurer successfully moved the trial court to compel appraisal, and the appraisal award exceeded Insurer's prior estimates. Insurer paid the award and then filed a motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted the motion and rendered a take-nothing judgment. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that, as a matter of law, Insured could not maintain his TPPCA claim because Insurer paid the appraisal award. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals' opinion was inconsistent with this Court's recent decisions on the issue.

Download PDF
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF TEXAS No. 18-0977 WILLIAM MARCHBANKS, PETITIONER, v. LIBERTY INSURANCE CORPORATION, RESPONDENT ON PETITION FOR REVIEW FROM THE COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTEENTH DISTRICT OF TEXAS PER CURIAM At issue in this insurance dispute is whether an insurer’s payment of an appraisal award bars an insured’s claims under the Texas Prompt Payment of Claims Act (TPPCA), codified as Chapter 542 of the Insurance Code. The court of appeals concluded it did. Because the court of appeals’ opinion is inconsistent with our recent decisions on this issue, we now reverse. William Marchbanks’s residential property sustained hail and wind damage. After its first inspection, Liberty Insurance Corp.—Marchbanks’s insurance provider—determined that there was no property damage attributable to a storm and therefore denied coverage. Fifteen months later, Marchbanks sought another inspection of his property. In response, Liberty requested information from Marchbanks to reopen his case, and it sent another adjuster to the property. After the second inspection, Liberty valued the damage at $387, which was below the insurance policy’s deductible. Liberty did not notify Marchbanks of this denial until almost three months after its decision. Believing the property damage was still undervalued, Marchbanks sued Liberty, alleging breach of contract and several extra-contractual claims. Six months after Marchbanks filed suit, Liberty successfully moved the trial court to compel appraisal. The appraisal award exceeded Liberty’s prior estimates. Liberty paid the award to Marchbanks and subsequently moved for summary judgment on all his claims. The trial court granted Liberty’s motion and rendered a takenothing judgment.1 The court of appeals affirmed, holding that Liberty’s payment of the appraisal award entitled it to summary judgment on Marchbanks’s TPPCA claim as a matter of law. 558 S.W.3d 308, 312–13, 316 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2018). Marchbanks filed a petition asking this Court to decide whether payment of an appraisal award extinguishes TPPCA liability as a matter of law. Meanwhile, we decided two cases relevant to the issues Marchbanks raises in his petition. In Barbara Technologies Corp. v. State Farm Lloyds, we held that “payment in accordance with an appraisal is neither an acknowledgment of liability nor a determination of liability under the policy for purposes of TPPCA damages under section 542.060.” 589 S.W.3d 806, 820 (Tex. 2019). On the same day, we restated in Ortiz v. State Farm Lloyds that “an insurer’s payment of an appraisal award does not as a matter of law bar an insured’s claims under the Prompt Payment Act.” 589 S.W.3d 127, 135 (Tex. 2019). 1 Initially, the trial court granted Liberty’s motion for summary judgment in part regarding Marchbanks’s claim for breach of contract and severed the remaining extra-contractual claims. The court later granted summary judgment for Liberty regarding the extra-contractual claims on the ground that Liberty’s full and timely payment of the appraisal award precluded Marchbanks from recovering on his extra-contractual claims as a matter of law. Marchbanks appealed only the dismissal of his extra-contractual claims. 2 The court of appeals concluded that, as a matter of law, Marchbanks could not maintain his TPPCA claim due to Liberty’s payment of the appraisal award. Under Barbara Technologies and Ortiz, this was error. Without hearing oral argument, see TEX. R. APP. P. 59.1, we reverse the judgment of the court of appeals and remand the case to the trial court to consider Marchbanks’s TPPCA claim in light of those decisions. OPINION DELIVERED: June 19, 2020 3
Primary Holding
The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals' judgment concluding that an insurer's payment of an appraisal award barred an insured's claims under the Texas Prompt Payment of Claims Act (TPPCA), Tex. Ins. Code chapter 542, holding that payment of an appraisal award does not extinguish TPPCA liability as a matter of law.

Disclaimer: Justia Annotations is a forum for attorneys to summarize, comment on, and analyze case law published on our site. Justia makes no guarantees or warranties that the annotations are accurate or reflect the current state of law, and no annotation is intended to be, nor should it be construed as, legal advice. Contacting Justia or any attorney through this site, via web form, email, or otherwise, does not create an attorney-client relationship.