Insurers have been busy paying premiums to Texas Supreme Court justices,
who delivered two opinions this month benefiting the insurance industry.
Both opinions deal with prejudgment interest. Prejudgment interest
is compensation paid to plaintiffs for the lost use of money. These opinions
provide new incentives for insurance companies to sit on claims and clog
our courts with disputes that should be settled. The decisions are
another costly slap in the face to Texas consumers.
In the weeks between February oral arguments and this month’s decision
in Henson v. Texas Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance, Justices Nathan
Hecht and Alberto Gonzales each collected a $2,000 contribution premium
from the Texas Farm Bureau (which runs the defendant insurance company
in this case).
Just before January oral arguments in the other case, Embrey v. Royal
Insurance, Justice Gonzales picked up a $2,500 contribution premium
from the law firm defending that insurer. Justices Gonzales, Hecht and
Owen also received another $2,500 each from Thompson Coe Cousins &
Irons last fall.
Defending the insurance industry contribution in the Henson case,
Justice Gonzales said, “In the whole scheme of things, $2,000 isn’t going
to have any kind of influence on me.”
“In the whole scheme of things” Justice Gonzales did not need the conflict-ridden
money that he took from the Texas Farm Bureau. Gonzales raised $1,047 for
every dollar his opponent raised.
If $2,000 won’t influence a justice, try $55,000. This is how
much money Texans for Lawsuit Reform rounded up for Gonzales. TLR money
accounts for 10 percent of all the money in Gonzales’ $539,000 war chest.
For whatever reason, insurance companies continue to clean up
before the high court. Insurers won 71 percent of the cases that they had
before the Texas Supreme Court in the 1990s. •