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5th Circuit affirms hailstorm damage ruling against insurer


A federal appeals court on Monday affirmed a lower court ruling in coverage litigation filed by a church that led to a $400,000 judgment against the insurer.

Church of the Open Door of Waco sued Merrill, Wisconsin-based Church Mutual Insurance Co. in U.S. District Court in Waco, Texas, in a dispute over coverage for a 2018 wind/rain/hail incident that damaged its roof, according to court papers in Church of the Open Door of Waco v. Church Mutual Insurance Co.

Following a 2021 trial, a Waco jury ruled that Church Mutual failed to comply with its agreement to pay for all damages and awarded the church $285,000 for breach of the policy, and $115,000 in extracontractual damages, for a total of $400,000. The trial court judge issued the $400,000 final judgment.

The insurer appealed, contending the amount the jury awarded was excessive; the judgment should not have included any award for extracontractual damages; and the costs assessed against the insurer are not recoverable as a matter of law.

It did not challenge the jury’s finding that it breached its contract and is liable to the church.

The lower court was affirmed in a two-page ruling by a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. “We conclude that the district court thoroughly considered Church Mutual’s motions and committed no reversible error,” it said.

Attorneys in the case did not respond to requests for comment.