Rene Sigman – Head of Texas Litigation

Rene Sigman of Merlin Law Group has been appointed to an elite group of attorneys and judges working on Model Case Management Orders designed to streamline insurance cases following natural disasters. The Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System issued a press release which stated in part:

IAALS, the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, with the support of a grant from the American College of Trial Lawyers, is leading a new initiative to expedite this recovery process for everyone involved—the victims seeking recovery, the insurance industry, and the legal system. Together with nationally renowned attorneys from all perspectives— including plaintiff and defense, FEMA, the Texas U.S. Attorney’s office, and state and federal judges—IAALS is developing streamlined, pattern protocols for discovery in first-party insurance cases arising from disasters, both natural and man-made.

This is a welcome and needed development. We have noted numerous attempts by courts trying to control and make the litigation process more efficient and fair. Several posts discussed these attempts regarding Superstorm Sandy:

My guess is that the first of these Model Case Management Orders will be entered in the Hurricane Harvey litigation based on the following quote from the IAALS press release:

We are already seeing the influx of cases in our Texas federal courts from Hurricane Harvey and those numbers will continue to grow exponentially in the next six months,” said Chief Judge Lee Rosenthal of the U.S. District Court in Houston. “I am eager to incorporate these disaster protocols in our court in Texas to ensure early and efficient resolution for all.

Assuming discovery will require insurers to turn over drafts of estimates and expert reports, I would also expect much of the pre-litigation gamesmanship to end. We have found that estimates are often changed from those that are written in the field. Knowing that illicit changes will see the light of day if litigation occurs, we may actually see insurers settle before their game is discovered.