22 Jun TX Shines Light for VA on Equitable Subrogation Principles
The Texas Supreme Court overturned the Austin Court of Appeals in Texas Health Ins. Risk Pool v. Sigmundik, 315 S.W.3d 12, 14 (Tex.2010) that ruled the “made whole” doctrine was inapplicable in a subrogation action where a contract clearly lays out a right to subrogation. This reversal is in line with a previous case, Fortis Benefits v. Cantu, 234 S.W.3d 642 (Tex.2007), standing for the same proposition.
Despite this clear line of case law, the Austin Court of Appeals erred on the side of the “little guy” in the situation where a trial court attempted to allocate the entirety of an $800,000.00 settlement in a negligence suit to the family of an individual who was injured in an oilfield explosion and spent 52 days in the hospital before eventually succumbing to his extensive injuries. When the insurance company intervened in the action and asserted a $330,000 lien on any recovery obtained by the family the trial court ruled that where subrogation claims work an injustice they should not be allowed. The court cited the financial hardship of the family and the solid financial position of the insurance company. The Austin Court of Appeals concurred with the trial court’s reasoning and affirmed. Ultimately, the Supreme Court overturned the ruling and cited its own cases to the contrary.
These cases are instructive for the Virginia subrogation counsel facing sympathetic trial judges who may be tempted to ignore the plain subrogation language in an insurance contract to “balance the equities.” As the Texas Supreme Court affirms, contracts are still held to be almost sacrosanct, no matter the outcome. This applies for subrogation, just like any other form of contractual agreement.