Inclusion of Adjuster Not Sufficient To Defeat Removal Jurisdiction In Bad Faith Case

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DALLAS, Oct. 6  — Ruling that the insured failed to shoe that an  adjuster could be directly liable for the claims alleged, a federal judge in Texas denied the insured request for remand of a removed bad faith case.

In  Ministerio Internacional Lirios del Valle v. State Farm Lloyds, et al., No. 16-1212, N.D. Texas; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 137453, the plaintiff sued State Farm Lloyds in the 160th Judicial District Court of Dallas County, Texas, over a property damage claim.   The suit included claims for breach of contract, breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing and violations of the Texas Insurance Code.  The complaint included allegations that adjuster Aaron Galvan, who conducted an investigation denied the claim on grounds that the damage was uncovered, was liable.

State Farm Lloyds removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, arguing the adjuster was not properly named as a defendant.  The plaintiffs moved for remand, and Judge Sidney A. Fitzwater denied the motion, holding:

“Defendants have met their heavy burden of demonstrating that there is no reasonable basis to predict that Ministerio might be able to recover against Galvan. . . Galvan is an adjuster, and ‘[a]n adjuster “cannot be held liable under this section [of the Texas Insurance Code] because, as an adjuster, he does not have settlement authority on behalf of the insurer…[the adjuster had] no obligation to provide a policyholder a reasonable explanation of the basis in the policy for the insurer’s denial of a claim, or offer of a compromise settlement of a claim.”

The judge also found that Galvan could not be held liable because the sections of the Texas Insurance Code relied upon by the Plaintiff applied to specifically listed ‘insurers,’ and Galvan was  “not an insurer.”

Ministerio Internacional Lirios del Valle v. State Farm Lloyds, et al., No. 16-1212, N.D. Texas; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 137453 (October 4, 2016, Fitzwater, J.)

Editor’s Note:  joinder of individual adjusters is a common tactic used by insureds to attempt to defeat federal removal jurisdiction, because it provides a “same state” defendant as the plaintiff.  While cases across the country have gone both ways, the individual liability of an adjuster is highly questionable under standard agency principles, if he or she is acting in the course and scope of his or her employment.

 

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Author: CJ Haddick

C.J. Haddick is a Director with the law firm of Dickie, McCamey, & Chilcote, PC, based in Pittsburgh, Pa. He has advised and represented insurers in insurance coverage and bad faith litigation for more than a quarter of a century, and written and spoken throughout the United States on insurance coverage and bad faith prevention and litigation. He is Managing Director of the firm's Harrisburg, Pa. office. Reach him at chaddick@dmclaw.com or 717-731-4800.

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