Richard Linklater Loses Appeal Against Insurance Company Over Burned Archive

First the Boyhood director saw a career’s worth of film prints, annotated scripts, unseen footage, PR material, props and other material destroyed in a massive 2011 fire that also ravaged more than 1,600 homes and killed two people. Today Richard Linklater saw his hopes of getting compensated by his insurance company for the loss of the $500,000-appraised archive also go up in legal smoke. “We will affirm the trial court’s judgment,” wrote a panel of Texas Court of Appeals judges, effectively ending the director’s attempt to get money from Truck Insurance Exchange for the fire (read it here). The appeal was born out of an initial 2013 court loss by Linklater against the company on claims of breach of contract and unfair practices.

With the destruction of material connected to films spanning from his first feature, 1991’s Slacker, to 2009’s Me And Orson Welles, Linklater was seeking about $240,000 on his policy with TIE for the loss. The 32,000-acre blaze on September 4, 2011, burned a building in Paige, Texas, that the School Of Rock helmer owned and had gotten built the year before distinctly to house his curated archive. The insurance company denied Linklater’s claim, saying his policy didn’t cover such property as the archive if it wasn’t stored in a “described location.” In response, the director sued.

Just over two years ago, trial court Judge Stephen Yelenosky ruled that TIE didn’t have to pay for property because the archive was not listed on the policy that Linklater and his Detour and 3109 Props took out as being at that locale. Having already been hit with one loss, the director appealed. In that action, he and his companies claimed that because he’d hadn’t filled in a premises location portion of the policy from the Farmers Insurance subsidiary, the matter of locations coverage was vague.

The trio of Lone Star appeal court judges didn’t see it that way, saying that Linklater couldn’t have it both ways and identify some locations on the policy but not others and then assert that they both are covered.

“TIE did not waive any geographic limitation to the commercial personal property policy’s coverage,” writes Justice David Puryear in the opinion issued Thursday. “The covered locations are described in the policy’s Renewal Certificate and Supplemental Declarations. The policy is not ambiguous with regard to what locations are covered and the trial court did not erroneously interpret ambiguous provisions of an insurance policy in favor of the insurer.”

That pretty much ends the matter.

As they did in the 2013 case, Mark Kincaid and Elizabeth von Kreisler of Austin based George Brothers Kincaid & Horton LLP represented Linklater in the appeal. Bob Scheihing of Adami Shuffield Sceilhing & Burns represented TIE.

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