Summary Judgment on Breach of Contract and Bad Faith case in June 2018
Hamp Skelton and Eddie Kaye obtained a complete summary judgment for State Farm in a hail damage/roof case alleging bad faith claims handling on June 7, 2018. The case turned on whether plaintiff met its burden of proof in raising a fact issue as to a loss within her policy period.
Victory for our client in a Stowers case in May 2018
Our client and her insurer agreed to settle a serious auto accident case for policy limits, only to have the plaintiff attempt to withdraw from the deal when the insurer asked the plaintiff's husband to sign the release too. Plaintiff's attorney attempted to turn the demand for a spouse's signature into a "gotcha" event, arguing that the insurer had "repudiated" the settlement and was now liable for unlimited damages. We moved for summary judgment on the settlement, arguing that the insurer's demand for a spouse signature (after both parties had signed a settlement) did not repudiate the deal, but was merely a request that was declined. The Travis County court agreed, granting summary judgment and ordering the plaintiff to pay attorneys fees for breaching the settlement to which she had agreed. Erin Holmes, Alysia Wightman and Hamp Skelton worked on this matter and Hamp argued the summary judgment motion.
Summary Judgment for Bank Client in August 2017
Hamp Skelton and Alysia Wightman obtained a $3.7 million summary judgment for a bank client in state district court in Austin in August 2017. They successfully defended the bank against fraud and misrepresentation claims as well, defeating a guarantor's claims that a personal guaranty had been procured by fraud. The decision turned on a doctrine under Texas law concerning justifiable reliance: that reliance on an oral representation (such as a promise a guaranty would not be enforced or that a bank would only look to collateral for collection) is not justifiable as a matter of law when the alleged oral representation is directly contrary to the language of a written agreement. Please contact Hamp or Alysia for further details or for more information on our banking litigation practice.
Summary Judgment for St. Paul in July 2017
On July 12, 2017, the federal district court for the Western District of Texas, Midland-Odessa Division, granted summary judgment for St. Paul in St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Company v. Black Star Energy Services, LLC, a collection suit involving a dispute over retrospectively adjusted premiums.
Victory in Texas Supreme Court in May 2017
Skelton & Woody was hired by Liberty Mutual to appeal an adverse decision in trial court in a multi-million dollar subrogation matter arising out of a fire caused by a welder's spark that destroyed an apartment complex. The welder's policy had been canceled by a premium finance company, but its notice of cancellation was defective. After Skelton & Woody prevailed in the Austin Court of Appeals, obtaining a reversal, the premium finance company hired Vinson & Elkins to pursue a petition for review in the Texas Supreme Court. The Court granted the petition and Hamp Skelton argued the case to the full court in December 2016. On May 12, 2017, the Texas Supreme Court issued its opinion, rejecting the premium finance company's "substantial compliance" argument and affirming the good results obtained in the court of appeals. The opinion, Bankdirect Capital Finance, LLC v. Plasma Fab, LLC., --SW3d--, 2017 WL 1068024 (Tex. 2017) may be viewed here.
Victory on Appeal on March 17, 2016
Eddie Kaye and Hamp Skelton won an appellate victory for State Farm, upholding a summary judgment granted by a Travis County District Court in a bad faith case involving summary judgment practice, failure to comply with scheduling order deadlines and discovery issues. The opinion may be viewed at this link.
Lawsuit Against Our Client Dismissed For Lack of Jurisdiction
In June 2015, Hamp Skelton won a motion to dismiss in federal court in Houston on behalf of a Florida company who was sued by a customer in Texas. Our client, a Florida livestock equipment distributor, was sued by a Texas manufacturer of livestock equipment. We moved to dismiss, citing our client’s lack of minimum contacts with Texas. The federal court in Houston agreed, writing that phone calls, texts and emails to the Texas plaintiff were not sufficient to make our client amenable to suit in Texas. A copy of the court’s opinion may be seen at this link.
Victory on Appeal in May 2015
Hamp Skelton successfully appealed from a summary judgment against their client in this insurance subrogation case against a premium finance company. After a catastrophic fire destroyed an apartment complex, the at-fault welding contractor's premium finance company improperly canceled the contractor's policy, leaving the insurer for the apartment owners, who hired Skelton & Woody, with the entire $6 million loss. Hamp argued the case to the Austin Court of Appeals, which found that BankDirect had failed to comply with the Texas Premium Finance Act in the manner in which it canceled Plasma Fab's policy and that BankDirect's limitation of liability clause in its contract was not conspicuous. Plasma Fab's claims against BankDirect were remanded for trial. The opinion in Plasma Fab, LLC v. BankDirect Capital Finance, LLC, __S.W.3d __, 2015 WL 2183541 (Tex. App -- Austin, 2015) may be read at this link.
Summary Judgment for insurer and two individuals in January 2015
Hamp Skelton and Eddie Kaye obtained a summary judgment for State Farm, an insurance agent and a claims adjuster in Bastrop County district court in a bad faith and coverage case involving water leaking from a swimming pool that allegedly caused foundation damage to a house. The plaintiffs challenged application of the policy's exclusion for "water beneath the surface of the ground," and urged the use of parol evidence to vary the terms of the insurance policy. The district judge granted summary judgment and on February 19, 2015, denied plaintiffs' motion for new trial.
Victory on appeal in May 2014
Hamp Skelton argued for State Farm in the Court of Appeals on May 13 and on May 19, the Court affirmed the judgment entered for State Farm in a trial on agreed facts before Judge Stephen Yelonosky. The plaintiff sought to avoid the flood exclusion in the standard Texas homeowners' policy, claiming that negligence by a third party road contractor had "directed" the flood waters toward his property. The Amarillo Court of Appeals (to which the Texas Supreme Court had reassigned the appeal from the Austin court), disagreed that the contractor's acts took the facts out of the exclusion's language and rejected the plaintiff's ambiguity argument. A copy of the opinion is available at this link: Matthew George, Appellant v. State Farm Lloyds, Appellee
Victory on Appeal in Mandamus Action in January 2014
Stephanie Clark, who handles the firm’s collections work for lenders and businesses, prevailed in the Waco Court of Appeals in early 2014 against a judgment debtor who sought to avoid asset discovery. A copy of the appellate court opinion is here:
10th Court of Appeals Memorandum Opinion in Re ASI Aviation, LLC
Injunctions Obtained in Fall 2013
Hamp Skelton obtained first a Temporary Restraining Order then a broader temporary injunction against Xerox in September and October 2013 in a case involving breach of a contractual provision barring Xerox from hiring away the employees of the firm's client. A copy of the injunction issued October 28, 2013 is available here:
Ordering Granting Temporay Injuction
Victory on Plea in Abatement in May 2013
Hamp Skelton won a plea in abatement for a client on May 6, 2013 in a case for a contractor. After being threatened with suit, the contractor filed suit in the county where the construction work was done. The subcontractor then filed its own suit in a court it perceived as more favorable, raising the question of which court had dominant jurisdiction. After an evidentiary hearing, the Travis County court ruled in our client's favor, abating the Travis County suit in favor of the court where our clients had brought suit.
Summary Judgment for Bank Client in March 2013
On March 25, 2013, Hamp Skelton and Stephanie Clark won a summary judgment for Omnibank in Manning v. Omnibank, NA, et. al., a case brought in Travis County by a customer who sued the estate of her ex-husband, her brokerage firm and her bank. The plaintiff alleged that the bank had permitted her husband to steal large sums of money from her bank accounts. At the summary judgment hearing, we demonstrated statutory defenses related to the plaintiff's failure to report irregularities in her account and that the record established that the Plaintiff had spent the disputed funds.
Victory for State Farm in October 2012
Hamp Skelton and Eddie Kaye won a summary judgment for the insurer on a novel question concerning the application of the Texas Prompt Payment of Claims Act to an uninsured/underinsured motorist claim, defeating a claim for attorneys fees as a penalty under circumstances where State Farm tendered its policy limits but got sued anyway by a plaintiff contending she had yet made an underinsured motorist claim. The decision turned on the question of when a claim is considered "presented" in light of the underlying auto case against the underinsured at-fault driver not yet having been adjudicated. The case was decided by Travis County Judge David Phillips.
Victory in Bankruptcy Court in October 2012 (and a good read!)
Hamp Skelton and Eddie Kaye successfully challenged the dischargeability of a debt in bankruptcy court in an adversary proceeding tried in Austin. Former firm employee, Will Rhodes, was the victim of an assault that left him with a deep gash to the face requiring 34 stitches, only to have his attacker stop a civil proceeding for damages by filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in an attempt to avoid financial responsibility for the injuries. Representing Mr. Rhodes, we asserted the doctrine that debts arising from willful and intentional injuries may not be discharged in bankruptcy. United States Bankruptcy Judge Craig Gargotta held a trial on the merits under Section 523 of the Bankruptcy Code in September 2012 on the sole issue of whether the injury suffered was "willful and malicious." Four witnesses testified and the Court issued its opinion on October 26, 2012, finding that the attacker's version of the facts was "not credible" and that the injury was both intentional and malicious. A copy of the Court's opinion -- an interesting read -- is attached here.
Summary Judgment for State Farm in July 2012
Hamp Skelton and Eddie Kaye won a crucial summary judgment for State Farm from a Travis County district court in a case that clarified the way in which the exclusion for flood and "overflow from a body of water" applied to water diverted from a drainage ditch by construction activities on adjacent property. Judge Stephen Yelenosky's letter ruling with the basis for his opinion is attached here.
Summary Judgment Victory in June 2011
Skelton & Woody was co-counsel with Kirkland & Ellis in representing DIRECTV, and co-counsel with Morrison & Foerster in representing EchoStar and DISH Network in a patent infringement case.
Summary Judgment Victory for Samsung in April 2011
Hamp Skelton successfully argued for summary judgment in Samsung Austin Semiconductor, Inc. v. Lloyd Technologies, Inc. before the Hon. John Dietz. The case involved liability for damage to a Canon Stepper, an optical measuring device used in Samsung’s microchip manufacturing FAB in Austin.
Hamp Skelton Receives the 2010 "Cy Pres- Impact on Justice" Award from the Texas
Access to Justice Foundation. The following is a quote from the foundation's website:
Austin attorney J. Hampton Skelton of Skelton & Woody received the Cy Pres--Impact on Justice Award from the Texas Access to Justice Foundation (TAJF). Skelton was instrumental in designating cy pres funds to the TAJF and five of its grantees to support civil legal services to persons with disabilities. The Cy Pres--Impact on Justice Award recognizes the significant impact lawyers can have in increasing funding for legal aid for poor and low-income Texans. Cy pres awards are residual funds from a class action or other proceeding that cannot be distributed to class members or the intended beneficiaries for a variety of reasons.
Summary Judgment Victories in Two Patent Cases August 6, 2009
Skelton & Woody was co-counsel with Kirkland & Ellis in a pair of patent cases filed by Encyclopedia Britannica against Toyota, Honda, TomTom Inc., Magellan Navigation Inc., and Alpine Electronics concerning the map search function on GPS devices. Encyclopedia Britannica's patent infringement claims were dismissed by Austin Federal Judge Lee Yeakel who found that Encyclopedia Britannica's claim of priority was broken and that Encyclopedia Britannica's patents were invalid. Please view the article from Law360.com: Toyota, Others Prevail In Spat Over Britannica Map IP.
Summary Judgment for State Farm in March 2009
The firm prevailed on a summary judgment motion in state district court in Travis County on March 10, 2009 in Cause No. D-1-GN-08-000897; Angelia Davidson v. State Farm Lloyds and Buddy Henderson; in the 261st Judicial District Court, Travis County, Texas. The lawsuit alleged breach of contract and bad faith in connection with a fire loss claims.
Summary Judgment for Continental Casualty on February 9, 2009
The firm won summary judgment for Continental Casualty Co., a Hartford Company, in February 2009 in a coverage case involving accidental death benefits. The decision turned on contractual limitations, statutory limitations and coverage issues. Here is a link to this order: Mildred Dick Opinion
Victory in Texas Supreme Court in February 2007
On February 9, 2007, The Texas Supreme Court issued its opinion in State Farm Life Insurance Company v. Martinez, 216 S.W.3d 799 (Tex. 2007) reversing the Tenth Court of Appeals’ opinion that unfairly penalized State Farm for not choosing and apportioning among three competing claimants to the same $500,000 life insurance proceeds. Eva Ramos and Hamp Skelton split the oral argument, held in December 2006. The unanimous opinion vindicated our client's decision to file an interpleader action, paying the policy proceeds into the registry of the court, in the face of conflicting claims by the deceased's daughter, former wife (whose divorce decree made her “irrevocable beneficiary”) and widow whom the deceased had attempted to designate as sole beneficiary. The opinion clarified how the Texas prompt payment statute (the former Tex. Ins. Code Art. 21.55) applies when insurers who face rival claims for the same benefits interplead the funds.
State Farm Life Insurance Company v. Martinez, 2007
Summary Judgment for Travelers on February 21, 2007
The firm won a summary judgment in Travelers favor in state court in Austin on February 21, 2007 in Olga Palacios v. AIC-Sunbelt Group, Inc. and Travelers Lloyds of Texas Insurance Company. The case involved a frequent litigant who sued Travelers and Plaintiff's insurance agent for allegedly failing to bind new coverage after the cancellation of her policy. Plaintiff also alleged that her signature had been forged on a policy cancellation request. She sued for a variety of contractual and extra-contractual theories, including fraud, and asserted a large mental anguish claim. Travelers prevailed on limitations grounds as to all but one claim asserted, enforcing a contractual limitations period that was shorter than the one provided for by statute, and prevailed on a "no evidence" summary judgment on the only claim not barred by limitations, fraud.