FARMERS WINS STATEWIDE MDL FOR THOUSANDS OF TEXAS WIND-HAIL CASES
On April 7, 2015, the Texas Multidistrict Litigation Panel granted Farmers’ request to transfer over 1,500 wind/hail storm cases into multidistrict litigation in MDL No. 14-0882, In re Farmers Insurance Company Wind/Hail Storm Litigation. This MDL is unique and unprecedented in several respects. First, this is the single largest MDL created in Texas jurisprudence. This MDL encompasses cases from all over Texas against Farmers from February 29, 2012 and June 11, 2014. Second, this MDL encompasses eight major storms across Texas and many smaller intervening storms, more than any prior MDL in Texas. Third, this MDL was divided into three regional MDL pretrial courts, which has never happened before with any prior Texas MDL proceeding. The MDL Panel appointed three judges to handle these cases across Texas—Judge Sylvia Matthews in Harris County, Judge David Evans in Tarrant County, and retired Judge Elma Teresa Salinas Ender in Webb County.
The division of the cases between the three judges is also unprecedented. Cases from six of the major storms are assigned to Judge Ender in Webb County. Cases from two of the major storms are assigned to Judge Evans in Tarrant County. Of the remaining cases, those with plaintiffs’ counsel in Harris County are assigned to Judge Matthews in Harris County. The remainder will be assigned to the various three pretrial judges based on recommendations from the pretrial judges to the MDL Panel. Never before have cases been assigned based on the location of plaintiffs’ counsel, although this is certainly consistent with the requirement under Rule 13 of the Texas Rules of Judicial Administration that “transfer would be for the convenience of the parties and witnesses and would promote the just and efficient conduct of the cases.” See Tex. R. Jud. Admin. 13.3(a)(2). This is also the first time that the Panel has taken suggestions or recommendations from any pretrial judge as to where a case should be transferred. This also marks the first time that the MDL Panel has granted such a sweeping request to transfer cases into MDL across the state of Texas. The Panel also gave explicit guidance as to what should be done with regard to other cases involving claims against Farmers arising out of wind/hail storms across Texas. If such claims arose within the time parameters of the current MDL, they can be tagged into the current MDL. If the cases fall outside the date range, Farmers can bring a second motion to transfer. This new guidance, analysis, and unique remedy involving multiple pretrial courts will change the approach and practice of moving to transfer cases to MDL in Texas.
The law firm of Martin, Disiere, Jefferson & Wisdom is honored to have had the opportunity to represent Farmers before the MDL Panel in this MDL proceeding. MDJW is pleased to stand at the forefront of firms helping to shape the law in Texas concerning MDL practice as it relates to insurance carriers in mass litigation.