Partner, Shannon, Gracey, Ratliff & Miller
In a practice that extends statewide, Mike Huddleston has advised, litigated, served as an expert and mediated in numerous complex insurance cases. But when Huddleston first became an attorney, his primary interest was appellate law, not handling insurance disputes. “Other than getting my policy, I didn’t know anything about it [insurance], but I had to learn quickly,” Huddleston says.
Huddleston’s education in insurance law began soon after he graduated from Southern Methodist University School of Law in 1983 and joined the Dallas firm then known as Cowles, Sorrells, Patterson & Thompson. At the Cowles firm, Huddleston worked with partner R. Brent Cooper, who practiced insurance law. In 1993, Huddleston and Cooper left the firm to form Cooper & Huddleston, where Huddleston was a shareholder for two years, before leaving to join McCauley, Macdonald, Devin & Huddleston as a shareholder. He joined Shannon, Gracey, Ratliff & Miller in 2001.
Over the years, Huddleston has been involved in several cases that resulted in landmark decisions. His track record includes representing an insurer in 1996′s State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. v. Gandy, in which the Texas Supreme Court virtually ended “sweetheart deals” for plaintiffs who settle with insured defendants who assign their rights against insurers in coverage disputes to the plaintiffs. Huddleston says in Gandy the high court held any type of prejudgment assignment of rights to be invalid and held that no judgment is binding against an insurer unless there has been a fully adversarial trial.
This year, Huddleston persuaded the 14th District Court in Dallas to vacate a $3.4 million judgment, plus interest, against the insurer in Colombrito v. Medicus Insurance Co. The case involved a coverage dispute that resulted in the doctor-defendant assigning his rights against Medicus to the plaintiff. Huddleston successfully argued that the 5th Court of Appeals’ 2011 reversal of the judgment in the underlying suit required the district court to vacate its coverage determination and judgment against Medicus. “It was a $4 million flip,” Huddleston says.
Although Huddleston represented chiefly insurance companies during the early years of his practice, he says he began representing more policyholders and plaintiffs lawyers in insurance cases in the late 1990s.
While Huddleston says he originally had planned to become a lawyer, he got distracted by his success in the music world. In high school, Huddleston won five University Interscholastic League awards for solo performance on a tenor saxophone and other instruments. In 1976, Huddleston enrolled in North Texas State University seeking a B.A. degree in applied music performance but decided he did not want to continue on that path. Huddleston says he transferred to Texas A&M University and decided to go to law school.
But Huddleston has not given up his interest in music and still plays saxophone with the Pecos River Brass. He says he learned in music that everything is not an exact fit and “you end up harmonizing things.” That’s applicable in law as well, he says.
R. Brent Cooper
Cooper & Scully
“He’s always been the guy you go to when you’re in a desperate situation, especially if you’re a carrier.”
“He is on the cutting edge of a lot of liability issues.”
Martin, Disiere, Jefferson & Wisdom
“He is very adept at analyzing insurance coverage problems and solving them.”
“He is often asked to handle matters outside the state because his clients believe he is that good.”
Ernest Martin Jr.
Haynes and Boone
“Ernest is the No. 1 guy for corporate policyholders.”
“He seems to be on the cutting edge of a number of issues. That includes Americans With Disability Act issues and the bad-faith arena, and he does very well in DOL (directors and officers liability).”
Shidlofsky Law Firm
“Lee has garnered a very good reputation in insurance circles in representing policyholders in construction defect cases.”
“He lives and breathes the insurance practice. He’s very creative and persistent in his approach to obtaining coverage for his client.”