In the District Court of Harris County, Texas, a jury awarded over $40 million to owners of oil production facilities nearly 12 years after Hurricane Rita struck the Gulf Coast. The oil company plaintiff hired experienced trial lawyers to bring their claim before the civil justice system and hold their insurer accountable for the damages suffered.
In 2005, Prime Natural Resource owned oil and gas drilling platforms off of the coast of Morgan City. These platforms were insured by underwriters at Lloyd’s, London. Hurricane Rita struck Prime’s wells in September 2005 causing over $20 million in damages, including debris removal and restoration. Despite being aware of the damages for over 10 years, the insurance company repeatedly claimed its policy did not cover this particular damage. The policy covering the oil and gas drilling platform was a Wellsure policy, one often used in the energy industry. The Underwriters admitted that they insured the platform, but refused to pay for any individual parts of the well damaged by the Hurricane.
Both the trial court and court of appeals refused to look beyond the language of the insurance contract granting summary judgment in favor of Lloyd’s. The court’s looked to the intent of the parties in interpreting the policy. On appeal Prime brought four causes of action in front of the District Court: (1) breach of contract, (2) unfair or deceptive acts under the insurance code, (3) failure to promptly pay claims, and (4) breach of common law duty of good faith. After a six-week trial, the jury awarded $27.3 million in punitive damages, while also finding the insurers both breached a contract, as well as, violated the state insurance code. In addition to the punitive damages, Prime was awarded $10.9 million in bad faith, $1.8 million in actual damages, and $1.6 million in legal fees.
The District Court’s findings are likely to set a precedent in litigating Wellsure policies. This court acknowledged this was the first jury trial in Texas determining how insurance companies pay under this type of policy. A ruling favorable to plaintiff’s likely will create additional suits against insurance companies.
Broussard, David & Moroux is a Lafayette based law firm consisting of attorneys which have the experience and expertise necessary to handle cases of this nature. The attorneys at Broussard, David & Moroux will fight to obtain fair compensation for any damages or injuries you or a loved one has suffered as a result of the negligence of another. Contact the attorneys at Broussard, David & Moroux to discuss your legal rights at (337) 233-2323(local) or (888) 337-2323 (toll-free).