Helping Trial Lawyers Navigate the Appellate System

Texas Supreme Court Orders & Opinions 1/11/08

The Texas Supreme Court released four opinions with this week’s orders:

In PAJ, Inc. v. Hanover Insurance Co. (No. 05-0849), a five-member majority (Justice O’Neill, joined by Chief Justice Jefferson and Justices Brister, Medina, and Green) held that an insured’s failure to timely notify its insurer of a claim does not defeat coverage if the delay caused the insurer no prejudice.  In doing so, the Court treated the policy’s prompt-notice requirement as a covenant, rather than a condition precedent.  Justice Willett dissented (joined by Justices Hecht, Wainwright and Johnson) and would have reached the opposite conclusion.

In Houser v. McElveen (No. 06-0504) (per curiam), the Court determined that an inmate who deposited his notice of appeal in the prison mail 35 days after the trial court signed a dismissal order was entitled to an extension of time.  Thus, the court of appeals erred by dismissing the inmate’s appeal.

In Levine v. Shackelford, Melton & McKinley, L.L.P. (No. 06-0553) (per curiam) (opinion on denial of rehearing from petition for review), the Court emphasized that “conscious indifference” is not the same as negligence when applying the test for setting aside a no-answer default judgment.

In AIG Aviation (Texas), Inc. v. Holt Helicopters (No. 06-0484) (dissent from denial of rehearing of petition for review) Justice Willett indicated that he would have granted review to overrule Puckett v. U.S. Fire Insurance Co., 678 S.W.2d 936 (Tex. 1984), distinguish it, or “explain forthrightly why we insist on applying a hazy, public policy-based interpretive standard to aviation insurance contracts . . . .”

D. Todd Smith
About the Author

D. Todd Smith is an Austin-based civil appellate specialist who works with trial teams from the earliest stages of litigation. In trial courts, he takes the lead on strategic analysis and briefing, jury charges, and potentially dispositive motions, all with a focus on preserving error and positioning cases for appellate review.

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