United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
F. MOORER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is Plaintiff's Request for
Appointment of Umpire. Doc. 1, filed August 9, 2018.
Plaintiff requests the Court to appoint an umpire pursuant to
an appraisal clause in an insurance policy. Id. at
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
originally filed in this Court, on August 9, 2018, its
Request for Appointment of Umpire. Doc. 1. Plaintiff requests
the Court to appoint an umpire pursuant to the appraisal
clause of an insurance policy issued by Plaintiff in favor of
Defendant. Id. at 1. Defendant submitted a claim for
policy benefits and a dispute arose between the parties as to
the amount payable from the claimed loss. Id.
Plaintiff valued the loss at $278, 598.60 and Defendant
valued that loss at $454, 329.18. Id. at 2. Because
the parties failed to agree on the amount of Defendant's
loss, on May 9, 2018, Defendant invoked the appraisal clause
of the policy, which is as follows:
If you and we fail to agree
on the amount of loss, either party may make written demand
for an appraisal. Upon such demand, each party must select a
competent and impartial appraiser and notify the other of the
appraiser's identity within 20 days after the demand is
received. The appraisers will select a competent and
impartial umpire. If the appraisers are unable to agree upon
an umpire within 15 days, you or
we can ask a judge of a court of record in
the state where the residence premises is
located to select an umpire.
Doc. 1-2, at 3. The parties both appointed appraisers who
attempted to agree on an umpire, but were unsuccessful. Doc.
1, at 1-2. Pursuant to the policy, Plaintiff filed this
action for the Court to select an umpire. Id. at 2.
The Court ordered the parties to file by June 6, 2019, their
briefs in support of their proffered umpires and objections
to the opposing party's proffered umpires. Doc. 18.
Plaintiff filed its brief on June 6, 2019. Doc. 19. As of the
date of this memorandum opinion and order, Defendant has not
filed his brief. See Docket Sheet.
DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS
Court is asked to pick an umpire, who will decide between the
losses that were submitted by the parties' respective
appraisers. The insurance policy at issue does not prescribe
any qualitifications for the prospective umpire. However,
“[a]n umpire selected to arbitrate a loss should be
disinterested, unprejudiced, honest, and competent.”
6f-168f Appleman on Insurance Law & Practice Archive
§ 3928 (2nd 2011).
requests the Court appoint one of its proffered umpires, who
include Michael B. Maddox, Phil Bernstein, and Chris Dixon.
Doc. 19, at 2-3. Defendant did not submit an objection to
Plaintiff's proffered umpires. See Docket Sheet.
Mr. Maddox has practiced law for more than forty (40) years
and his practice has been concentrated in conducting
mediations and arbitrations for approximately twenty (20)
years. Doc. 19-1, at 2. Mr. Maddox has also been recognized
by several publications and rating organizations for his
legal work. Id. Mr. Bernstein is an Alabama State
Certified Residential Real Property Appriaser who has been
involved in the real estate industry for more than forty (40)
years and has been involved in the real estate appraisal
industry for more than (30) years. Doc. 19-2, at 2. Mr.
Bernstein has owned his own appraisal company for more than
twenty (20) years and has completed extensive real estate
appraisal course work. Id. Mr. Dixon is an Alabama
State Certified Residential Real Property Appriaser who has
been a residential appraiser for more than thirty (30) years,
is president of his appraisal firm, and has completed
extensive real estate appraisal course work. Doc. 19-3, at 2.
Mr. Dixon also is a qualified appraiser for many banks,
mortgages companies, credit unions, appraisal management
companies, and relocation companies. Id. at 3.
identified umpire nominees in his Motion to Dismiss and
Response to Request for Appointment of Umpire, who include
Thomas Kent Garrett, Randall B. James, the Honorable Eugene
W. Reese, and the Honorable Charles Price. Doc. 5, at 3-4.
Mr. Garrett is an attorney who was admitted to the bar in
1980 and practices in the areas of automobile product
liability, insurance defense, automobile insurance defense,
worker's compensation, insurance bad faith, pharmacist
liability, and product liability. Id. at 2-3. Mr.
Garrett is a member of the Montgomery County Bar Association,
American Bar Association, Alabama State Bar, Florida Bar, and
Alabama Defense Lawyers Association. Id. at 3. Mr.
James is an attorney who has practiced for more than thirty
(30) years and his practice areas include
mediation/arbitration, automobile accidents, product
liability, wrongful death, dram shop, bad faith, and
worker's compensation. Id. Since 2001, Mr. James
has been a mediator. Id. Mr. James also has been
involved in his community through many organizations.
Id. Judge Reese was admitted to the bar in 1982 and
was with the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit for the State of
Alabama until he retired in January 2017. Id. at
3-4. Judge Price was admitted to the bar in 1972 and was an
assistant district attorney, district attorney, and took the
bench for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit for the State of
Alabama, from which he retired in 2015. Id. at 4.
objects to Defendant's proffered umpires because it
argues they do not have as much experience with the relevant
subject matter as its proffered umpires and they do not have
any experience with real estate or valuing appraisals.
the necessary qualities for an umpire-disinterested,
unprejudiced, honest, and competent-the Court does not have a
reason to question any of the proferred umpires as to the
first three qualities based on the information before the
Court. They all appear to meet those criteria. As to whether
the proffered umpires are competent, all also appear to be
competent. The most experienced candidates with regard to the
relevant subject matter-real estate appraisal-are Mr.
Bernstein and Mr. Dixon. Therefore, based on years of
experience, completed real estate appraisal course work, and
qualifications, the Court selects Mr. Dixon as umpire in this