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Given the intricacies in almost all legislations
passed, the devil is in the details. Before we can understand why certain laws
may seem senseless now but may have made sense decades early, we must take a
look at the history and specifics of the laws and why they were passed. In the
case of J & D Towing, LLC v. American Alternative
Insurance Corporation (14-0574) questions Texas law that allows compensation for loss-of-use damages for
partial destruction of personal property but not for total destruction of
property. While in both cases the owner of the property may lose profits due to
damage to the property weather completely or partially destroyed. Why is there
such nuances in the law? The Texas Supreme court held the common-sense verdict
that, Texas law permits loss-of-use damages in total-destruction cases.

Dating as early as the late 1800’s numerous cases
hinged on the idea of partial of complete destruction of personal property. One
such case involved a plaintiff who “engaged in the business of carrying
passengers for hire in its motor coaches or vehicles” (Colonial Motor Corp.). A
train struck the plaintiffs motorcade resulting in complete destruction of the
passenger car. The plaintiff sued for loss-of-damages from being unable to
carry passengers and was denied. The court concluded that, “where an injured
vehicle may be repaired, then the cost of repairs, together with the loss of
use, would be proper elements of damages; but, where the vehicle has been
totally destroyed, there should be no allowance of damages for loss of use
“(Colonial Motor Corp.).

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In hindsight these jurisdiction may have made
sense decades ago, but the question remains, why the law differs when it comes
to complete VS. Partial destruction of personal property, in the case of J
& D Towing, LLC v. American Alternative Insurance Corporation challenges the long held notion that the two
differ in terms of loss-of use damages. J Towing, LLC lost its only tow truck when a negligent motorist
collided with the truck and rendered it a total loss. Due to the loss, the
owner could no longer resume business as usually. The owner Robert Davis, had
purchased the 2002 Dodge 3500 in April 2011 for $18,500 which was struck by
negligent motorist Cassandra Brueland, who took responsibility of the accident.

Davis then began to negotiate a settlement with
the Bruelands’ insures, arguing for the compensation of the market-value of the
truck which was between $19,000 and $20,000 plus loss-of use damages. The
insurer “offered to settle J&D’s property-damage claim for $10,299.12 if
J retained the truck or $16,715.61 if the insurer retained the truck”
(Willet).  J&D refused to accept the
initial settlement offer but about a month and half later, Brueland’s insurer
settled with J&D for $25,000, which he used to buy a new truck.

Davis still hadn’t re-cooped his full losses
including loss of use of truck while the settlement was in negotiation which
spanned from December 29, 2011 to March 8, 2012. In order to recoup his loss
for the period mentioned, Davis sued his own insurance provider claiming that “the
funds from the settlement with Brueland’s insurer were insufficient to compensate
him for these damages” (Willet) citing the AAIC’s underinsured-motorist policy.

AAIC’s underinsured-motorist policy promises to
pay for damages which an “insured” is legally entitled to recover including
bodily injury or property damage (Willet).The key word here is “legal” and
under Texas law recovery of loss-of-use damages in total-destruction case is
not permitted. Legally speaking AAIC was in the green, they cited statues that
allowed for them to dismiss compensation in total destruction of personal
property cases. To anyone who lives by the book, AAIC would have been the clear
winner, they cited credible sources for the decision but their decision did not
set well with the jury. They jury voted in favor of the plaintiff the amount of
$22,500 plus interest and court costs. While the trial court’s decision may
have been a sweeping victory for J & D towing, the case was once again
appealed by AAIC where it reached the court of appeals.

In the court of appeals, AAIC appealed the
previously held decision from the trial courts, this time though with a
different framework. They questioned, “Whether Texas law on total-destruction
cases permitted the trial court to submit the loss-of-use-damages question to
the jury” (Willet), legality of laws is not something the jury has jurisdiction
over, and it’s the legislators who sign bills into laws, giving the jury to
amend Texas law, might come off as unconstitutional. Secondly, AAIC argued
that, “whether the trial court correctly denied AAIC’s JNOV motion” (Willet) ,
you see the JNOV could have reversed the judgment in favor is AAIC given the
legal statues and lastly, mentioned that , “whether J could recover under
the policy “where its legally recoverable damages do not exceed the limits of
Brueland’s liability coverage(Willet).

Finally the court of appeals, agreed with AAIC,
it was an abuse of power to allow the jury to vote on total loss of damage and deny
the JNOV motion, therefore the court of appeals rendered judgment in favor of
AAIC. It may seems like the final verdict of J & D Towing,
LLC v. AAIC, sided with
AAIC, but wait there’s more.

J & D appeals the previous decision in favor
for AAIC, arguing not on the legality of the case but rather on the logical
premise of the law. “Texas law permits loss-of-use damages in
partial-destruction cases, and the same should be true in total-destruction
cases” (Willet). J & D claims the law is illogical and “against the great
weight of jurisdictions that have eliminated that archaic distinction” (Willet).
AAIC countered with the same legal jargon and finally the court of appeals
voted in favor for the plaintiff J & D.

The Court of Appeals cited that the inquiry
is based on the nature of deprivation. Based on
previous similar rulings, the plaintiff is to be compensated for loss incurred
during the period of depravation, which is defined as, “a period reasonably
necessary to obtain replacement property— that the principle of full and fair
compensation is satisfied” (Willet). Under this criteria the plaintiff can be
compensated for loss-of-use damages in total-destruction cases. It also upheld
the trial courts, motion in submitting the loss-of-use-damages question to the
jury and correctly denying AAIC’s JNOV motion.

Despite the long back and forth between AAIC and J & D, there lies a
silver lining in this decision, it confirms that while corporations may sight
nonsensical archaic laws in support of their case, and given the law is on
their side, J & D had something more profound. J & D final argument
came down to logical and sound reasoning. Despite the growing corruption in
government, a court decision that over-rules nonsensical laws gives assurance that there is hope in humanity

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