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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Minnesota Life Insurance issued a life insurance policy to Terry Clements. Terry’s husband, Robert, was named as the primary beneficiary. The policy included an automatic cost-of-living increase, but the beneficiary designation was unaffected by operation of that provision. Terry and Robert divorced in 1991, and Terry died in June 2001. Robert notified Minnesota Life of his claim on July 25. Minnesota Life required proof of Terry’s death, which it received on Aug. 20. Robert then sued on Sept. 18 to recover the proceeds and for statutory damages under Insurance Code Art. 21.55, which says “[e]xcept as otherwise provided, if an insurer delays payment of a claim following its receipt of all items, statements, and forms reasonably requested and required, as provided under Section 2 of this article, for a period exceeding the period specified in other applicable statutes or, in the absence of any other specified period, for more than 60 days, the insurer shall pay damages and other items as provided for in Section 6 of this article.” The statute also allows for prejudgment interest. Minnesota Life submitted the funds into the trial court’s registry on March 27, 2002, on an interpleader counterclaim. Robert and Minnesota Life filed cross summary judgment motions. Robert asserted that he was entitled to the policy proceeds, prejudgment interest and statutory damages. The only other “potential claimant,” Terry’s maternal grandmother, agreed. Minnesota Life responded that Robert was not entitled to prejudgment interest or statutory damages, and that it, Minnesota Life, was entitled to attorneys’ fees for its interpleader counterclaim. The trial court ruled against Robert’s motion and in favor of Minnesota Life’s motion. HOLDING:Robert first argues that the trial court abused its discretion in failing to assess statutory damages under Art. 21.55. To maintain a claim under Article 21.55, a party must prove: 1. a claim under an insurance policy; 2. that the insurer is liable for the claim; and 3. that the insurer has failed to follow one or more sections of Article 21.55 with respect to the claim. The court finds that Robert did not establish the third element. In finding that Minnesota Life’s interpleader action was appropriate, and complied with the “safe harbor” provision of Family Code 9.301(c), the trial court also found that Minnesota Life complied with Art. 21.55′s requirements, thus releasing the insurer from paying damages. The court agrees that the interpleader action was appropriate, as Minnesota Life proved: 1. it was subject to, or had reasonable grounds to anticipate, rival claims to the life insurance policy proceeds; 2. it did not unreasonably delay in filing the interpleader action; and 3. it had unconditionally tendered the policy proceeds into the trial court. The court further finds that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to grant prejudgment interest. The trial court correctly found that, based on Article 21.55, Robert was not entitled to recover for his claim for damages. Accordingly, Roberts brought an unmeritorious insurance code violation claim against Minnesota Life, and he has not shown entitlement to prejudgment interest. The court then considers whether the trial court should have awarded Minnesota Life attorneys’ fees. Given the trial court’s analysis of the relationship between and conduct of the parties in this case, it did not abuse its discretion in exercising its equitable powers to deny appellate attorneys’ fees to Minnesota Life. OPINION:Hanks, J.; Taft, Hanks and Higley, JJ.

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