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Thompson v. Geico Insurance Agency, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

August 3, 2017

TIFFANY FALKENHAGEN THOMPSON, Appellant
v.
GEICO INSURANCE AGENCY, INC. D/B/A GEICO SECURE INSURANCE COMPANY, Appellee

         On Appeal from the 127th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 2015-23904

          Panel consists of Chief Justice Frost and Justices Donovan and Wise.

          OPINION

          KEM THOMPSON FROST CHIEF JUSTICE.

         In this first-party insurance case we determine the scope of a Texas Personal Auto Policy provision requiring the policyholder to notify the insurer of the policyholder's acquisition of a replacement vehicle for coverage to extend to damage to the newly acquired vehicle. Presented with cross-motions for summary judgment on the meaning of the notification requirement, the trial court ruled for the insurance company and against the policyholder. Challenging that ruling in this appeal, the policyholder argues that the policy's replacement-vehicle notification requirement does not apply to leased vehicles or, alternatively, that the policy language is ambiguous on the point and so should be construed in the policyholder's favor. Concluding that the replacement-vehicle notification provision unambiguously applies to leased vehicles, we affirm.

         I. Background

         Appellant Tiffany Falkenhagen Thompson owned a 2011 Infiniti G37 automobile and secured insurance for it from appellee Geico Insurance Agency, Inc. d/b/a Geico Secure Insurance Company ("GEICO"). Thompson traded in her G37 and leased a 2015 Infiniti Q50 automobile but did not notify GEICO that she had acquired the Q50. A few months later, while driving the Q50, Thompson was involved in an automobile accident.

         Presentment and Denial of Claim

         Thompson filed a claim with GEICO the day of the accident. The filing of the claim marked the first occasion Thompson notified GEICO that she had acquired the Q50. GEICO denied the claim because Thompson did not notify GEICO within thirty days of acquiring the new vehicle, citing to a replacement-vehicle notification provision in the policy as support for its denial of the claim.

         Policyholder's Suit

         Thompson sued GEICO, alleging breach of contract, breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing, violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and violations of the Texas Insurance Code. Thompson also sought a declaratory judgment that the policy covers her Q50.

         Insurer's Motion for Summary Judgment

         GEICO filed a traditional motion for summary judgment, asserting that the policy did not cover the Q50 because Thompson did not notify GEICO that she had acquired the new vehicle within thirty days after leasing it. GEICO argued that because Thompson failed to comply with the notification provision, GEICO was not liable for any damages.

         Policyholder's Motion for Summary Judgment

         Thompson filed a cross-motion for partial summary judgment, arguing that (1) the policy covers the Q50 because the policy does not require her to notify GEICO that she had acquired the leased vehicle within thirty days of leasing it; and (2)alternatively, the ...


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