(Note: This Guest Blog is by Javier Delgado, an attorney with Merlin Law Group in the Houston, Texas, office. This is the third in a series he and fellow attorney Tina Nicholson will be writing on Texas property insurance issues).

In the last blog I posted regarding our litigation against Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA) and the exchange of documents, Current Status of TWIA Discovery for Hurricane Ike Claims in Galveston County, I briefly explained the discovery process in a first party litigation case. In the usual order of discovery, documents are exchanged and then the attorneys take depositions of each party. Due to the thousands of cases filed against TWIA, it was necessary to coordinate these depositions much in the same way that it was necessary to exchange discovery documents.

Yesterday, the Court in Galveston County entered an order directing the parties as to who, where, and how the depositions would take place. The depositions of Jim Oliver, Bill Knarr, and Reggie Warren, along with a host of other TWIA claims supervisors whose names are also listed on the order, will be governed by the Court’s order.

Although TWIA argued to have these depositions take place in another County, Judge Susan Criss quickly denied their request and ordered the depositions take place in Galveston County.

The depositions will be taken by members of the plaintiff’s Ike Steering Committee. The depositions of Jim Oliver, Bill Knarr, and Reggie Warren will each take place over five days, and all others listed in the order will each take place over three days. The number of days allowed for these depositions can change by agreement of the parties or the Court’s order.

How does this order affect cases pending in other counties? The order does not at all affect cases pending in other counties.

How does this order affect my individual case? The purpose of the depositions is to learn all of the information necessary to prosecute each client’s case with respect to the issues of the institution (TWIA) and TWIA’s pattern and practice of handling claims. This means that the topics covered with respect to the institution and institutional practices cannot be discussed again in subsequent depositions. The plaintiff can, however, ask questions specific to each individual case. This process blurs the line of what can and cannot be asked in depositions because a lot of what is asked in a deposition is dependent upon how it is asked. I expect there will be a number of hearings in the near future with respect to what can and cannot be covered in individual depositions.

When are these depositions scheduled to take place? The depositions of the top three (Jim Oliver, Bill Knarr, and Reggie Warren) are scheduled to begin in the middle of February. A February date is necessary because there are more documents due to come in that TWIA has not yet produced.

  • Maybe now someone will understand that an [insured event] damaged property does not need a certain damage complexity, or certain number of subtrades work, before general contractors are to be hired by claimants.
    .
    Maybe now the TWIA managers will understand the premium/loss value calculation logic that the TDI Bulletins B0045-98 & B0068-08 make clear is inherently owed claimants as general contractor overhead and profit values.
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    Maybe they will understand that adjusters/contractors construction estimating programs core data is based on AVERAGE prices in a given zip code.
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    Maybe they will understand that wind delaminated/damaged shingles, are exactly that.
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    Maybe other Texas insurers/adjusters are paying close attention to these issues that TWIA supporters conduct has exposed.