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Franks v. Liberty County Mutual Insurance Co.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

May 14, 2019

CHARLES FRANKS, Appellant
v.
LIBERTY COUNTY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Appellee

          On Appeal from the 151st District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 2017-49231

          Panel consists of Justices Christopher, Hassan, and Poissant.

          MAJORITY OPINION

          Margaret "Meg" Poissant Justice

         Appellant Charles Franks brings this appeal from the trial court's order granting appellee Liberty County Mutual Insurance Company's motion for summary judgment, signed March 26, 2018. For the reasons stated below, we affirm.

         Background

         Franks filed suit against Liberty in July 2017 seeking benefits under his car insurance policy. The petition alleged:

[A] collision that occurred on August 21, 2016, in Prairie View, Waller County, Texas. At the time of the collision, [Franks] was traveling west on U.S. Highway 290 Business in Prairie View, Waller County, Texas, in a safe, reasonable, and lawful manner. Suddenly, an unknown white vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed proceeded to pass [Franks] forcing [Franks] into the right lane and causing [Franks] vehicle to collide with a vehicle driven by [another]. [Franks] suffered injuries as a result of the actions of the unknown vehicle.
At the time of the collision, [Franks] vehicle and person were covered by an automobile insurance policy issued by [Liberty], which was in full force and effect. The insurance policy included uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage as defined within the policy and/or by statute.

         Franks sought to obtain a Declaratory Judgment establishing the negligence and uninsured status of the unknown driver, thereby entitling Franks to recover damages from Liberty under the uninsured motorist provision ("UIM") in Franks' Liberty Mutual policy. See Tex. Ins. Code art. 5.06-1(5). Further, Franks brought claims for (1) breach of insurance contract; (2) breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing; (3) deceptive trade practices; and (4) violations of the Texas Insurance Code. Franks also requested a declaratory judgment determining:

• The driver of the white vehicle was negligent and was an uninsured/underinsured motorist;
• The amount of damages Franks suffered and is legally entitled to recover from the driver of the white vehicle;
• Franks' damages are covered by his insurance policy and he is entitled to recover those damages from Liberty; and
• The amount of damages, attorneys' fees, interest and court costs that Liberty is obligated to pay.

         In December 2017, Liberty filed a motion to sever and abate Franks' UIM claim, which was granted. Liberty filed a motion for summary judgment on February 5, 2018, on the basis that there is no UIM coverage applicable to Frank's claim. On February 6, 2018, the trial court severed and abated Franks' contractual and extra-contractual claims into trial court Cause No. 2017-49231-A. The UIM claim remained in trial court Cause No. 2017-49231. In March 2018, ...


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