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Eid v. Pond

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

May 2, 2019

BOUCHRA EID, Appellant
v.
MARIA POND, Appellee

          On Appeal from the 53rd District Court Travis County, Texas [1] Trial Court Case No. D-1-GN-17-002018

          Panel consists of Justices Lloyd, Kelly, and Hightower.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          RICHARD HIGHTOWER, JUSTICE

         This contract-formation case asks whether a letter or a signed release, both of which materially altered the terms of the preceding offer, constitutes an acceptance that creates an enforceable settlement agreement. Following an auto accident with appellee Maria Pond, appellant Bouchra Eid made a time-sensitive demand to State Farm, Pond's liability insurer, for the automobile policy's limits in exchange for Bouchra's settling all claims. Bouchra and State Farm then proceeded to exchange a series of communications that ended with Bouchra suing Pond for negligence. Pond secured summary judgment, arguing that a settlement agreement had been reached and that Bouchra breached its terms by filing and maintaining this lawsuit. Because Bouchra and State Farm never had a meeting of the minds on the material terms of the agreement, a contract did not form. We therefore reverse the summary judgment.

         Background

         Appellee Maria Pond collided her vehicle into another that was carrying appellant Bouchra Eid, her husband Maaz Eid, and her son Omar Eid. The collision allegedly injured each of the Eids. The Eids hired Andrew Traub as their attorney. In three separate letters, Traub informed Pond's liability insurer, State Farm, that he was representing Maaz, Omar, and Bouchra and that each would be making a "claim for damages." In three separate responses, State Farm Claim Specialist Laronda Benson responded to Traub acknowledging the representation and asking for more information.

         Traub's April 11, 2017 letter to Benson on Bouchra's behalf laid out the terms of a settlement offer. The letter stated:

[W]e hereby request a settlement in the amount of the policy limits . . . .
This is a Clear and Unequivocal Opportunity To Globally Settle This Case And Protect Your Insured From The Consequences Of A Verdict and Judgment In Excess Of The Limits of The Insurance Policies.
In exchange for a tender of policy limits, [Bouchra] will provide a complete release of your insured, with indemnification for all other claims which might be asserted by, through or under [Bouchra]. As part of any settlement agreement, your insured will be released from all liens arising by, through or under [Bouchra] . . . . This offer is intended as a complete and unconditional settlement of the case.
This settlement offer is based upon the Stowers Doctrine . . . .
We hereby make demand upon you for tender before the expiration of 14 days from your receipt of this demand.

         Thirteen days later, on April 24, 2017, Benson responded:

We received your . . . time limit demand for your client, Bouchra Eid. We have concluded the evaluation of your client's claim resulting from this loss. Based on the documentation provided, State Farm is willing ...

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