West ISD Files Lawsuit Naming Insurance Carrier

WEST (May 22, 2014) A lawsuit filed Tuesday in Waco's 170th District Court claims the insurance company for the West Independent School District has shorted the district in claims filed in the wake of the April 17 2013 West Fertilizer plant explosion.

The suit names Argonaut Insurance Co., Trident Insurance Services and the Texas Association of Public Educators as defendants and claims they breached their contract with the district and violated state insurance codes in the wake of the explosion that destroyed two school buildings and damaged another.

West ISD Superintendent Marty Crawford said the school board elected to file the lawsuit after Argonaut offered to pay the district $23 million, but that number falls $30 million short of the district claims for losses.

The new lawsuit does not specify damages but claims they exceed $1 million.

The petition identified Argonaut as the insurer, Trident as Argonaut’s claims adjuster and says the Texas Association of Public Educators is acting as a fictitious entity “through which the defendant’s operate.”

According to the company’s website, Argonaut Insurance Company is a subsidiary of Argo Group International Holdings, Ltd., which has an office in San Antonio.

Argo Group is an international underwriter of specialty insurance and reinsurance products in areas of the property and casualty market, according to the website.

As well, the Argonaut Group is the parent company of Trident, which “is committed to servicing the insurance and risk management needs of preferred governmental entities throughout the United States,” the Trident website says.

The association’s website says Texas Association of Public Educators is a non-profit organization created in 2005 for the benefit of public school districts across Texas.

The website also points out that “Trident Insurance Services and TAPE have worked together to develop a comprehensive array of insurance products … (including) general liability, automobile liability, educators legal, identity theft, liability, property, and inland marine.

The lawsuit claims TAPE is an organization that was created by and for the benefit of Argo Group and is not a professional educator’s website.

The lawsuit alleges the three defendants have failed to pay claims to West ISD in a timely and expeditious manner, in spite of the fact that the defendant’s liability is “without dispute.”

Attorneys for Argonaut and Trident have so far not returned calls to their San Antonio offices and a spokesman for the company said there would be no comment on pending litigation.

Contact information for the TAPE group’s management staff is not readily available.

A trial date on the issue has not yet been set.