Firm Wins Wind/Hail Jury Trial for State Farm in Rio Grande Valley
State Farm insured a large home in Mission, Texas which was hit in the now-infamous March 2012 hail and wind storm (which resulted in thousands of suits in The Valley against virtually every insurer providing commercial and residential property coverage in the region). At this residence, State Farm found some hail damage to the tile roof and other parts of the property, but the large deductible resulted in no claim payment. The tile on the residence had not been manufactured in the decade leading up to the storm so the insured, and his PA, argued that a total roof replacement was required because matching tiles couldn’t be obtained. State Farm took the position in the claim stage that the hail damaged tiles could be replaced with harvested tiles from another undamaged slope and that harvested slope could be replaced with substantially similar tiles from another manufacturer or a tile boneyard.
The insured was a 60-year old Hispanic man who owns a small trucking company operating in south Texas. His wife doesn’t speak English and didn’t testify at trial. They custom built the home at issue in the suit 18 years ago. Plaintiff filed suit in early 2013 in Hidalgo County and State Farm removed it to federal court on fraudulent joinder grounds in Joe Cantu vs. State Farm Lloyds, No. 7:13-cv-00105, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, McAllen Division. On the eve of trial, Judge Micaela Alvarez granted State Farm’s motion for summary judgement on the bad faith, Insurance Code, DTPA and fraud claims. Rick Daly and John Black of Daly & Black in Houston represented Plaintiff in the case and both lawyers tried the case. Late last Wednesday, January 27th, the 12-person jury returned a defense verdict in State Farm’s favor on all issues.
Plaintiff’s primary expert was Rob Kitto, a public adjuster and appraiser used by several members of the plaintiffs’ bar in wind/hail cases across the state. State Farm’s primary expert regarding the condition of the roof was Don Putnam of Putnam Roofing Consultants in Austin.
The jury panel came from both Hidalgo County and Starr County. The venire panel was 85% Hispanic and typical for the venue in terms of socio-economic background. Many of the 45 members of the venire panel who appeared for jury selection had personal hail claims on their residences and/or their cars following the March and April 2012 storms.
Chris Martin and Marilyn Cayce of our firm tried the case for State Farm and handled it from inception. We wish to thank State Farm for the opportunity to protect its interests in this case and for the chance to win it at trial.