In construction or similar ongoing projects, problems often pop up. Sometimes they can pop up again and again. Making things even more complicated, one problem may affect another, seemingly new problem. When these construction problems result in property damage, timelines tend to overlap and determining when a statute of limitation begins to run for a particular claim can be difficult. Especially in states with short statute of limitations for tort claims like Texas, knowing when a statute begins to run is crucial for a subrogation professional. Continue reading
Recently, in McMillan v. Amazon.com, Inc., No. 18-CV-2242, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 102025, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas ruled that Amazon.com, Inc. (Amazon) could be held liable as a “seller” under Texas’ product liability statute for injuries caused by a defective product sold by a third-party vendor on its website. Although the court’s analysis is based on Texas law, the decision puts one more crack in Amazon’s armor. Continue reading
In Barrett v. Berry Contr. L.P., No. 13-18-00498-CV, 2019 Tex. LEXIS 8811, the Thirteenth District Court of Appeals of Texas considered, among other things, the procedural timing requirements of filing a certificate of merit in conjunction with a complaint. The court concluded that the proper reading of the statute requires a plaintiff to file a certificate of merit with the first complaint naming the defendant as a party. Continue reading
The extent to which a loss scene can be altered before adversaries can legitimately cry spoliation has long been a mysterious battleground in the world of subrogation. In the case of In re Xterra Constr., LLC, No. 10-16-00420-CV, 2019 Tex. App. LEXIS 3927 (Tex. App. – Waco, May 15, 2019), the Court of Appeals of Texas, Tenth District, addressed the question of when a party has a duty to preserve evidence. The court found that the trial court abused its discretion in imposing sanctions on the defendants for the spoliation of evidence as the evidence at issue was already gone by the time the defendants knew or reasonably should have known there was a substantial chance a claim would be filed against them. Continue reading
In In re City of Dickinson, 568 S.W.3d 642 (Tex. 2019), the Supreme Court of Texas recently assessed whether a client’s emails with its counsel were subject to disclosure after the client was designated as a testifying expert witness. In re City of Dickinson involved a coverage dispute between a policyholder and its insurer. The policyholder moved for summary judgment on the issue of causation, essentially alleging that its insurer did not pay all damages caused by Hurricane Ike. In responding to the motion, the insurer relied upon an affidavit by one of its employees, a claims examiner, that included both factual testimony and expert witness testimony. Continue reading
In Texas, an action against a licensed/registered professional arising from the provision of professional services requires the plaintiff to file a “Certificate of Merit” (COM), which is an affidavit from a third-party professional setting forth the theory of liability against the professional. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 150.002. The COM must be filed contemporaneously with the complaint, unless the following two conditions, contained within Section 150.002(c), are both satisfied. First, the action must be filed within ten days of the expiration of the statute of limitations or repose. Second, the plaintiff must specifically allege in its initial petition against the professional that there is insufficient time to obtain a COM before the statute of limitations or repose expires. In such cases, a court will grant the plaintiff a 30-day extension to file a COM and the plaintiff may obtain further extensions from the court for “good cause.” If a plaintiff fails to comply with the COM requirement, Section 150.002(e) requires the court to dismiss the complaint and the dismissal “may be with prejudice.” Continue reading
In Molina v. Gears, 2018 Tex. App. LEXIS 1978 (March 20, 2018), the Texas Court of Appeals addressed the issue of whether a plaintiff who timely-filed a complaint exercised due diligence with respect to serving the complaint. The court held that, to “bring suit” within a statute of limitations period, a plaintiff must file the complaint within the statutory timeframe and use due diligence to serve the defendant with process. Continue reading
In Brooks v. CalAtlantic Homes of Texas, Inc., 2017 Tex. App. Lexis 9466, the Court of Appeals of Texas considered whether a defendant moving for summary judgment on the grounds that the statute of repose expired also bears the burden of establishing the absence of applicable exceptions to the statute of repose. In Texas, a plaintiff alleging a construction defect in an improvement to real property must file a lawsuit within ten years of the date of substantial completion of the improvement. Continue reading
There has been a growing trend among states to enact statutes that impose specific notice requirements when bringing claims against construction professionals. These notice requirements may apply to the subrogated carrier bringing a claim against a construction professional for certain types of damages. Failure to comply with the notice requirements can result in a dismissal of the subrogation action. Accordingly, caution must be exercised when notifying construction professionals of certain claims, and not just claims for construction defects.
In Zbranek Custom Homes, Ltd. v. Joe Allbaugh, et al., No. 03-14-00131-CV, 2015 WL 9436630 (Tex.App.-Austin Dec. 23, 2015), the Court of Appeals of Texas, Austin, considered the circumstances under which a general contractor can be held liable for injuries to a non-contracting party’s property. The court held that, because the general contractor, Zbranek Custom Homes, Ltd. (Zbranek), exercised control over the construction of the fireplace at issue, Zbranek owed a duty of care to the first lessees of the home that Zbranek built.