FEDERAL COURT IN HOUSTON RULES IN FAVOR OF ALLSTATE AFTER BENCH TRIAL ON ALLEGED WINDSTORM DAMAGE AND INSURANCE CODE CLAIMS
A Federal District Court Judge in Houston recently dismissed all claims against Allstate related to a windstorm claim after a bench trial. In Corbett v. Allstate Vehicle and Property Insurance Company, No. 4:17-CV-3368 (S.D. Tex. Nov. 30, 2020), Judge Al Bennett dismissed all contractual and extra-contractual claims after a two-day bench trial. The basis of the lawsuit was a claim by the Corbetts that their home had suffered storm damage. Allstate denied the claim after an inspection finding there was no physical damage. After the claim was denied, the Corbetts filed suit seeking damages for breach of contract and Texas Insurance Code violations. The Corbetts were represented at trial by Sean H. McCarthy of Williams, Hart, Boundas, Easterby, LLP, and Andrew Cook of the Cook Law Firm. Allstate was represented by Kevin Risley of Thompson. Coe, Cousins & Irons LLP. The Corbetts claimed there had been severe weather that caused the damage and, further, that their testimony was the only credible evidence of the weather that occurred that day. After Plaintiffs’ case-in-chief, Allstate moved for judgment as a matter of law which the court denied at the conclusion of trial.
The trial court found that because the evidence and expert testimony presented at trial did not show hail or wind damage caused by the January 2, 2017 storm, the Corbetts had not met their burden of establishing coverage. Accordingly, Allstate did not breach the Policy by denying the claim. Citing Menchaca, the court also found because an insured may not recover under the Texas Insurance Code unless a claim is covered by the policy, the Corbetts cannot recover under the insurance code. Notably, relying on testimony from Allstate’s expert engineer Mark Kubena, the court made a finding of fact that a “wind speed of fifty-eight miles per hour is insufficient to damage the property’s roof.” Additionally, while not specifically commenting on it, the trial court appears to have disregarded the testimony from the Corbetts’ expert Shannon Kimmel that the home suffered roof damage from hail 1.5” in diameter.