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The Texas Blue
Advancing Progressive Ideas

Fortis Benefits v. Vanessa Cantu and Ford Motor Company

The Texas Supreme Court just held that the “made whole” doctrine must yield to an insurance company’s right to contractual subrogation under the terms of the insurance policy. To call this opinion anti-consumer would be an understatement of biblical proportions.

What does this mean? You, as a Texas citizen, are severely limited in your ability to recover in a personal injury claim.

The long standing position in Texas was that if the insurance company or the person must go unpaid in an accident, the loss should be borne by the insurance company for that is a risk the person has paid the insurance company to assume. This was an equity position, a fairness position.

This current case says that if there is a contract that specifies a subrogation right to a third party recovery then that contractual right trumps equity principles.

Bottom line — Insurance companies win and you lose.

Clearest example: You are in a car accident and have medical bills of $25,000.00 all paid by health insurance. The person that hits you has a minimum policy of $20,000.00. That person turns over his $20,000.00. Your health insurance company gets every dollar and you, the injured person, recover nothing.

In the good old days (read: YESTERDAY), you could negotiate with your health insurance company to get a reduction in the amount of subrogation so that you could collect something for being injured. This decision takes away this avenue of compromise.

What are the chances that the legislature will fix this problem and make equitable principles the law in Texas?

Democratic challengers needed

The Texas Supreme Court is insurance company heaven. This is just the latest in a long series of outrageous decisions against the public good.

The opinion of the Court authored by the newest justice, Don Willett (alas that Judge Bill Moody's candidacy did not prevail), goes to remarkable lengths to demonstrate this court's dismissal of the humanity of the injured party. Willett's opinion does not describe, or even mention, the nature of the plaintiff Vanessa Cantu's injuries. Vanessa Cantu is not a person to these cold corporate Republican judges; she is just a name, just a statistic to them.

So what if the insurance company is going to get to eat up her settlement recovery; so what if she needs every penny for medical maintenance the rest of her life; that matters not to these economic royalists who occupy every seat on the Supreme Court of the people of Texas.

When I ran for the Supreme Court in 2004, restoring a sense of justice and public interest to that Court was evidently such a low priority within our Democratic community that no other Democrat but me ran for seats that were up that year. There were three seats up and only one Democratic challenger, me. The other two of the three contestable seats had no Democratic challengers.

We cannot let that happen again. We need a Democratic lawyer or lower court judge running against every one of the three Republican incumbents who will be up in 2008. So far we do have one tremendously qualified Democratic challenger, Galveston's District Judge Susan Criss, who is up and running against Republican incumbent Phil Johnson for his seat. I support Judge Criss all the way. As a Supreme Court justice she will be as different from the crass-hearted iceberg judges who signed off unanimously on the Cantu decision as night is from day . There are two other incumbent justices who also need to be contested, so we need at least two more Democratic lawyers or lower court judges to step up to the plate. The people of Texas must have justice.

David Van Os
Fight 'em on the ice!

My daughter, Vanessa Cantu

My daughter reached out to you and you ignored her calls, or you were just to busy to meet with her. Why go thru all the trouble of writing and adding your opionions of the corrupt justice system if your being two sided!! Looks like you enjoy writing a whole lot more than actually getting involved out here in the real world, where each day I have watched my daughter struggle thru all her adversities that have been presented to her by persons like yourself that talk big and do nothing. She now is being faced with total depletion of her trust fund, a freeze that took place on Feb. 18th in a Cleburne court ruling, and is trying to figure out how she will pay her mortgage, her car, medical, stop the chirade, if you really care, step out and do something about it, or keep your comments to yourself. Whom are you trying to impress here anyway?

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