Curnutt v. Industrial County Mutual Insurance Company

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by Heygood Orr and Pearson

Heygood, Orr & Pearson represented the family of Isabel Cervantes, a four-year-old girl who was killed in an automobile accident.  The case styled Alfredo Cervantes and Rocio Cervantes, Individually and as a Representative of the Estate of Isabel Cervantes, Deceased vs. Jose Daniel Vasquez and Salavador Loera was filed in the 14th Judicial District Court of Dallas County, Texas (the “Cervantes suit”).

The Petition alleged that Jose Daniel Vasquez was negligent and grossly negligent in causing the death of Isabel Cervantes. The Petition further alleged that Salvador Loera was negligent and grossly negligent in entrusting his vehicle to Jose Daniel Vasquez knowing he was intoxicated.  On the day of the incident, Mr. Vasquez and Mr. Loera had been drinking all day and all evening and Mr. Vasquez had also been using illegal drugs.

At that time of the incident, Salvador Loera and Jose Daniel Vasquez were insured under an Industrial County Mutual Insurance Company policy. Industrial County was a subsidiary of TIG Insurance Group (“TIG”). This policy was a minimum limits policy of $20,000 per injured or deceased party. Industrial County and TIG hired or had in place three different claims adjusting firms that were charged with handling the Cervantes suit at various times (Omega, Allegiance and Cunningham Lindsey). Industrial County, TIG and their claims adjusting firms handled and defended the Cervantes suit in a negligent manner by, among other things, failing to settle within the policy limits when provided an opportunity to do so and failing to hire an attorney to defend the case. This negligence resulted in a default judgment in the Cervantes suit in the amount of $7,000,000 against Salvador Loera and Jose Daniel Vasquez.

Six months later, HO&P attorneys filed on behalf of the Cervantes family a motion for the appointment of a receiver and for turnover of the causes of action Mr. Loera and Mr. Vasquez had against Industrial County, TIG and their claims adjusting firms for permitting the default judgment to be entered against them. Kelly Curnutt was appointed receiver and the causes of action possessed by Mr. Loera and Mr. Vasquez were turned over to him for prosecution and liquidation. In carrying out his duties as receiver, Mr. Curnutt hired HO&P and filed a lawsuit against Industrial County, TIG and their claims adjusting firms for failure to defend, negligence, Stowers liability and insurance code violations.

Industrial County then filed a bill of review in an effort to eliminate the $7,000,000 default judgment against Loera and Vasquez, claiming that the failure to hire an attorney to defend the case was not due to conscious indifference and that the default judgment should  be voided and a new trial ordered on the underlying claims of the Cervantes family.  The bill of review case was tried to a jury and, while the jury was deliberating, HO&P negotiated a settlement of $3,000,000.  As a result of their aggressive and creative representation of the Cervantes family, HO&P obtained a $3 million recovery for their clients when the underlying insurance coverage for the auto accident had been for only $20,000.

The Law Offices of Heygood, Orr & Pearson is a Texas civil trial firm specializing in business litigation and life altering personal injury and wrongful death litigation.  Should you wish to discuss Heygood, Orr & Pearson potentially representing you or your company in a civil litigation matter, please contact the firm at info@hop-law.com