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Lambert v. State Farm Lloyds

Court of Appeals of Texas, Second District, Fort Worth

November 7, 2019

Joseph Lambert and Susan Lambert, Appellants
v.
State Farm Lloyds and Tevin Senne, Appellees

          On Appeal from the 415th District Court Parker County, Texas Trial Court No. CV16-0048

          Before Sudderth, C.J., and Kerr, J. [1]

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Elizabeth Kerr Justice

         I. Introduction

         Appellants Joseph and Susan Lambert appeal the trial court's order granting summary judgment in favor of appellees State Farm Lloyds and adjuster Tevin Senne[2]and denying the Lamberts' motion for partial summary judgment. In two issues, the Lamberts argue (1) that their extracontractual claims remain viable even though State Farm eventually paid their homeowner's-insurance claim after the parties engaged in the policy's appraisal process and (2) that the trial court erred by granting State Farm's summary-judgment motion and denying their own motion concerning State Farm's liability-despite its timely paying the appraisal amount-for statutory interest and attorney's fees under the Texas Prompt Payment of Claims Act ("TPPCA").

         Because we hold that the Lamberts have failed to provide any evidence of actual damages aside from compensation to which they were entitled under their homeowner's policy and because payment of an appraisal award does not bar a TPPCA claim but also does not conclusively establish that the Lamberts are entitled to summary judgment, we will affirm the trial court's judgment in part and reverse it in part.

         II. Background

         This suit began over the way State Farm handled the Lamberts' claim for hail and wind damage to their home from a May 2015 storm.

         The Lamberts submitted a claim for damages under their homeowner's-insurance policy. State Farm assigned adjuster Senne to their claim; he inspected the Lamberts' home and found $4, 935.97 worth of damage to it. Because depreciation and their policy deductible amounted to more than the $5, 000 in damage, State Farm's letter to the Lamberts showed a "Total Payable" of "$-0-." Soon after, the Lamberts asked State Farm to reinspect their home, which Senne did in October 2015, this time finding closer to $10, 000 in damage and netting the Lamberts some $1, 700 after subtracting depreciation and the deductible.

         Dissatisfied, the Lamberts sued State Farm in January 2016, asserting claims for breach of contract, unfair settlement practices under the Texas Insurance Code, violations of the TPPCA, breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing, violations of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and fraud. State Farm then moved to compel appraisal under the appraisal provision in the Lamberts' policy. The Lamberts and State Farm followed that procedure, designating appraisers who then jointly appointed an umpire. The appraisal panel ultimately set the amount of loss to the Lamberts' home at $99, 112.72 on a replacement-cost basis and $70, 965.54 on an actual-cash-value basis.[3] Two days after learning of the award, and after deducting depreciation and the past payment of roughly $1, 700, in mid-August 2016 State Farm paid the Lamberts $63, 404.63.[4]

         The next month, State Farm moved for summary judgment arguing that because it had paid the amount of loss as determined by appraisal and because the Lamberts had not alleged an independent injury separate from their rights under the policy, State Farm was entitled to a take-nothing judgment in its favor. The Lamberts then moved for partial summary judgment on their TPPCA claim, specifically claiming that they were entitled to statutory interest and attorney's fees under Section 542 of the Texas Insurance Code. Tex. Ins. Code Ann. § 542.060(a). Although the trial court initially granted the Lamberts' motion and denied State Farm's, it later granted State Farm's motion for reconsideration and signed a final judgment in State Farm's favor on September 29, 2017. That judgment expressly denied the Lamberts' partial-summary-judgment motion and granted State Farm's motion "in its entirety." The Lamberts appealed.

         III. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         The same well-known standard of review applies to both issues in this appeal, involving as they do the ...


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