This Past week Texas Lawyer named Daly and Black their “Litigators of the Week” for a jury trial victory against State Farm, an insurer that repeatedly delays, denies, and unfairly handles claims. The text of the article, published November 3, 2014, follows:
When John Scott Black directly examined his law firm partner Richard Daly at a trial for a lawsuit their client Ginger Hanson had filed against an insurance company, the two lawyers used the opportunity to deliver a history lesson for the jury about why Texas lawmakers allowed a panel to award attorney fees.
With Daly on the stand, Black asked: “And so tell us, this type of case, is this the kind of case, as you understand it, where a jury can be allowed to award fees?”
Daly answered: “Yes. The state legislature has built in a safeguard in cases like this where, when you have an individual like Ms. Hanson who filed a suit for an insurance company wrongfully denying her claim, if she wins she can get her attorney fees. And that safeguard is put there because otherwise, you know, you could see if she was—if we were handling this on an hourly basis, we’ve put way more in time than she is entitled to. She’d get nothing. You know, she’d spend $150,000 in attorney fees to recover $40,000. It doesn’t make any sense.”
The lesson plan worked for the two partners in Houston’s Daly & Black. Hanson had alleged that State Farm Lloyds breached its contract when it denied her coverage of roof damage.
In a final judgment issued Oct. 23, 281st District Judge Sylvia Matthews, on the basis of jury finding, awarded Hanson $12,878 in damages and $70,000 in attorney fees, as well as $45,000 for future appeals.
“Juries are smart,” said Daly.
In a petition filed Nov. 15, 2012, Hanson alleged that State Farm Lloyds had made a “biased and unfair” evaluation of her losses from roof damage related to a storm. She cited breach of contract among her causes of action.
On Feb. 26, State Farm Lloyds filed an answer generally denying the allegations. Christopher W. Martin, a partner in Houston’s Martin Disiere Jefferson & Wisdom, who represents State Farm, did not return a call or reply to an email by press time.
After a three-day trial, a jury on May 19 found that State Farm had failed to comply with its contract and set the damages and attorney fees awards. Matthews followed the jury with her final judgment.
Shortly before the trial started, Black and Daly decided to try the case together, partly because, Daly noted, the defense “had four lawyers” during the whole trial.
Daly was not surprised by the insurer’s vigorous defense, and he said he expects State Farm to appeal, which will make handy the attorney fees the jury awarded Hanson for post-trial litigation.