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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Teresa Nickerson was injured in an automobile collision with Calvin Christopher. Nickerson sued Christopher, but she released her claims against him after accepting a $25,000 payment representing the limits of Christopher’s insurance policy. Nickerson also accepted a $10,000 payment of personal injury protection benefits from State Farm. Believing her damages to be greater than Christopher’s policy limits, Nickerson sued State Farm to recover under the UIM provision of her policy, which had a $300,000 limit. At trial, Nickerson sought to establish Christopher’s liability and recover attorney’s fees under Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code ��38.001 and 38.002. On Nov. 13, 2002, a jury found that Christopher’s negligence proximately caused Nickerson’s damages and awarded her $225,000 in actual damages and $46,500 in attorney’s fees incurred during trial. On Dec. 4, 2002, State Farm paid Nickerson $191,294.52, representing the actual damages ($225,000), minus offsets ($35,000), plus interest on $190,000 at a rate of 10 percent simple interest from Nov. 13, 2002, through Dec. 4, 2002. The trial court signed a final judgment on Dec. 6, 2002, finding that Nickerson was entitled to actual damages of $225,000 plus prejudgment interest of $181,849.32 accruing from the date suit was filed until the day prior to judgment. Based on these findings it awarded Nickerson $300,000, the limit of her UIM policy. Additionally, the trial court awarded Nickerson $46,500 in attorney’s fees and postjudgment interest. On appeal, State Farm initially challenged both the attorney’s fees and prejudgment interest awards, but later withdrew the prejudgment interest issue, and on Nov. 18, 2004, paid the remainder of the UIM policy limit of $300,000. The 6th Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s judgment. HOLDING:Affirmed in part, reversed and rendered in part. The Texas Supreme Court examined whether the attorneys’ fee award was proper. The court held that an insured may recover attorneys’ fees under ��38.001 and 38.002 only if the insurer does not tender the UIM benefits within 30 days after the trial court signs a judgment establishing liability and underinsured status of the other motorist. In this case, the court stated, State Farm had no contractual duty to pay benefits until the trial court rendered judgment for Nickerson. Thus, the court stated, there was no “just amount” for State Farm to owe, and Nickerson had no claim to present before the trial court rendered judgment. Therefore, the court held that the trial court erred in awarding Nickerson attorney’s fees incurred during the trial. Likewise, the 6th Court of Appeals erred in affirming that judgment. OPINION:Jefferson, C.J., delivered the opinion of the court. O’Neill, J., did not participate in the decision.

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