The Supreme Court of Texas has turned down the insurer’s attempt to overturn the verdict.
Allstate Insurance’s efforts to overturn a jury verdict having to do with underinsured driver benefits have been denied by the Supreme Court of Texas.
The high court upheld the jury verdict in a 5-4 decision regarding a 2016 claim.
The Supreme Court decision upheld the $95,000 jury verdict from the Bexar County court in favor of Daniel Wes Irwin. That verdict required Allstate to pay Irwin the full sum of $50,000 underinsured driver benefits from his policy. The amount covered the policyholder’s injuries from a crash caused by another driver back in 2016. The order also requires the insurance company to pay for the $45,540 in attorney fees on top of court costs.
The majority verdict of the court upheld the jury verdict that Irwin had adequately brought his claim against the insurer under the Uniform Declaratory Judgment Act (UDJA). It determined that Irwin could not directly sue the insurer for the collision and could not file a breach of contract lawsuit, as there had not been any instance of such a breach.
“Either party to a written contract may seek declaratory relief if there is a question regarding rights, status, or other legal relations arising under it,” stated Justice John Phillip Devine.
Of the nine Texas Supreme Court justices in the underinsured driver benefits case, four dissented.
The dissenting justices said that a breach of contract claim represented the only way Irwin would be able to recover his benefits. They also cautioned that the holding of the majority would make it possible for tort case plaintiffs to employ UDJA for obtaining attorney fee awards.
Irwin’s car accident occurred in 2016, at which time his claim was settled against the at-fault driver for the full limit of her insurer’s policy, which was $30,000. That said, Irwin’s hospital bills at the time were a reported $30,368.81.
Later, Irwin pursued the maximum the maximum settlement for his injury claim under his Allstate underinsured driver benefits policy, which was for $50,000. That said, the insurance company offered only $500 of that amount. Irwin filed a lawsuit against the insurer in 2018 and pursued a declaratory judgment from a Texas state court. He argued that he was entitled to recover collision damages since they were within the terms of his policy, and sought coverage for court and attorney fees.