July 15, 2013

In the first Hurricane Ike trial to go to verdict against State Farm Lloyds, last Friday a Harris County jury rendered a unanimous defense verdict on all issues in favor of State Farm in Judge Elizabeth Ray's court after a two week trial.  In Yanez v. State Farm Lloyds, Plaintiffs argued State Farm did not explain the terms and benefits of the policy to the insureds who were Spanish-speaking and further alleged State Farm failed to pay all the hurricane damages that were owed. Mr. and Mrs. Yanez did not report their claim for 9 months.  After the initial claim investigation, State Farm paid for a total roof replacement.  Plaintiffs hired the Mostyn Law Firm who filed suit two year later and the case proceeded to trial last week.

At trial, plaintiff's experts engineer Greg Becker and estimator James Wesselski testify the 67 mile per hour winds at the insureds’ residence were sufficient to rack the house and cause rafter separation and cracks to interior walls and floor tiles.  State Farm’s engineering experts, Dr. Jon Peterka (a nationally recognized wind engineer from Colorado) and Mark Kubena (a structural engineer from Houston) strongly disagreed and testified the winds of Hurricane Ike did not damage any part of the residence other than was initially found and paid for by State Farm.  The Mostyn Firm's attorney fee expert, Randy Cashiola, asked for $154,000 in attorney's fees through trial.  That amount included a $25,000 “Premier Law Firm” fee which Cashiola argued was also owed solely because of the alleged success of the Mostyn firm in obtaining larger settlements from insurance companies than other plaintiffs’ firms, among other things. 

The jury found no breach of contract, no bad faith, and no violations of the insurance code.  The jury also found Plaintiffs failed to comply with their obligations under the policy.  The jury charge did contain a question on the amount of fees as of the date of State Farm's Rule 167 offer, but since the jury found no breach of contract or bad faith, and thus awarded no fees, the secondary fee question was not answered.  Greg Cox tried the case for the Mostyn Firm.  Brian Chandler of Ramey, Chandler, Quinn & Zito and Joe Nistico of Nistico, Crouch and Kessler tried the case for State Farm Lloyds.  Congratulations to Brian Chandler, Joe Nistico, and the entire State Farm trial team for this trial victory. 

Editor’s Note: State Farm had three Hurricane Ike trials set for trial in Harris County this month, all against the Mostyn Law Firm.  The first case set for trial, Rivera vs. State Farm Lloyds was non-suited by the Mostyn Law Firm two weeks ago on the first day trial.  That case was handled by Chris Martin and Marilyn Cayce of MDJW.  The Yanez case was the second trial and it successfully concluded last Friday.  The third trial, Fuentes vs. State Farm Lloyds, started this morning in the 151st District Court in Houston and is expected to last two weeks.   David Jones of Jones, Kurth and Andrews in San Antonio is lead counsel in that case.