Insurance Law Section
When is a Breach Not a Breach?
by Tarron L. Gartner

Greene v. Farmers Ins. Exch. and the SCOT’s Continuing Debate over the Material Breach Rule

Co-author: Whitney Warren

Last summer, the Texas Supreme Court’s decision in Greene v. Farmers Ins. Exchange, probably left most of us scratching our heads.  In Greene, the Court reached the surprising conclusion – at odds with the Court’s prior rulings – that the vacancy clause of a Texas homeowners policy is not “breached” by the insured’s failure to occupy the residence premises, because it does not confer an obligation upon the insured to occupy the property, but merely defines the scope of what the policy insures.  Therefore, concluded the Court, neither the anti-technicality statute nor the material-breach rule prohibit an insurer from denying coverage for a loss that occurs while the property is vacant, even if the vacancy did not contribute in any way to the loss. 

Factual Summary

The insured, LaWayne Greene, insured her house through Farmers Insurance Exchange under a Texas Homeowners-A Policy (HOA) form, endorsed by TDI, effective from February 10, 2007 to February 10, 2008. Greene moved out of her residence o...(Continue)

Section News
Welcome the 2015-2016 Insurance Law Section Council & Officers

Join us in welcoming the Insurance Law Section Officers and Council Members for 2015 - 2016. New officers were elected by the Council and Council members were elected by Section membe... (Continued)

More Section News
Recent Decisions
Insured's Stowers Demand Serves as Rejection of Prior Offer to Settle from Insurer  
Davis v. Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Co. Tx 1-Houston 7/2/15—
Lack of enforceable contract or evidence of promise fatal to insured's claim
Insured's Failure to Cooperate and Agreement to Judgment without Consent Bars Coverage  
Texas Farmers Insurance Co. v. Kurosky Tx 2-Ft Worth 7/2/15—
Insurers establish sufficient summary judgment evidence to negate claims
Insured Prevails in Judicial Review of Denial of Disability Benefits  
Boone v. Colvin ND Tx 7/1/15—
ALJ prejudicially substituted lay opinion for uncontroverted medical opinion
ERISA Plan Participant Avoids Motion to Strike ERISA Claim  
Francis v. South Central Houston Action Council, Inc. SD Tx 7/1/15—
Court denies participant right to jury under established law
Insured's Extra-Contractual Claims under Auto Policy Fail  
Bernstein v. Safeco Insurance Co. of Illinois Tx 5-Dallas 6/30/15—
Insurer prevailed on breach of contract claim, effectively barring any extra-contractual claims
Halloween Flood Claim Against FEMA Fails  
Price v. Fugate WD Tx 6/30/15—
Limitations period triggered by partial disallowance of claim
Insurer Prevails, Defeats Motion to Remand  
Zimmerman v. Travelers Lloyds of Texas Insurance Co. WD Tx 6/30/15—
Insured's claims against adjuster do not withstand scrutiny
Magistrate Judge Recommends Affirmation of Decision in Disability Insurance Benefits Dispute  
Haynes v. Colvin WD Tx 6/29/15—
Court finds substantial evidence to support decision, rejects claim for remand
Supreme Court of Texas Holds that CERCLA Proceeding is a "Suit"  
McGinnes Industrial Maintenance Corp. v. The Phoenix Insurance Co. Tx Sup 6/26/15—
Dissent criticizes Court's varying "contract interpretation" principles
Magistrate Judge Affirms Commissioner's Decision in Disability Benefits Case  
Wilkins v. Colvin WD Tx 6/26/15—
Court finds substantial evidence in support of decision
More Recent Decisions