East Texas Appellate Court Denies Mandamus Relief to UM Carrier Disgruntled With Venue Ruling

The litigation process in an east Texas car accident case is sometimes long and arduous. If a case goes all the way to trial, one or both parties may appeal the trial court’s judgment, asking the court of appeals to correct an error or grant a new trial. Sometimes, a party will attempt to circumvent the usual appellate process by filing what is known in the law as a request for a “writ of mandamus.” In essence, this is a plea to an appellate court to correct an alleged wrong made by a trial court before the usual judicial process has been completed.

Facts of the Case

A recent case decided by the Court of Appeals for the Twelfth District of Texas involved a dispute between a woman who was involved in a car accident with an uninsured motorist and her underinsured motorist (UM) insurance carrier. In the trial court, the plaintiff filed suit against both the uninsured motorist (asserting a claim of negligence) and the UM carrier (claiming breach of contract, conversion, breach of fiduciary duty, and civil conspiracy and asking for certification of a class and a declaratory judgment).

The UM carrier filed motions to transfer venue to another county and to sever the claims against it from the claims against the uninsured motorist. The trial court denied both motions. The UM carrier then sought mandamus relief from the trial court’s orders denying its motions.

The Court’s Decision

The court of appeals denied the writ of mandamus sought by the UM carrier, pointing out that mandamus is an extraordinary remedy that is only available to correct a clear abuse of discretion for which there is no adequate remedy by appeal. As to the UM carrier’s motion to transfer venue, the carrier maintained that venue in Rusk County was improper because its principal place of business was in Dallas County. However, the court noted that Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 15.032 states that a lawsuit against an insurance company may be brought not only in the county in which the insurance company’s principal office is located but also in the county in which the loss occurred or the county in which the policyholder resided at the time the cause of action accrued. Since § 15.032 is a permissive venue statute, rather than a mandatory one as argued by the UM carrier, the court found that mandamus relief was not appropriate.

With regard to the UM carrier’s contention that the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to sever the plaintiff’s claims against it from her claims against the uninsured motorist, the court noted that the plaintiff had expressly represented that she no longer contested the severance, rendering the issue moot.

To Speak to an East Texas Injury Attorney

If you have questions about your legal rights following a motor vehicle collision, east Texas car accident attorney Earl Drott can help. We offer a free, confidential case review, and we do not require upfront attorney fees in most car wreck cases. To schedule an appointment, call us at 903-531-9300. We handle cases throughout the Tyler and Smith County area.

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