How Do Judges Select Umpires? Some Just Select a Person They Know and Respect | Property Insurance Coverage Law Blog


On May 29, the policyholders and insurer filed a joint motion with a federal judge for the appointment of an umpire to an appraisal. The motion noted in part:

11. The appraisers informed the parties during the week of May 20, 2024, that they failed to agree on an umpire. The policy states: ‘If [the appraisers] cannot agree upon an umpire within 15 days, you or we may request that the choice be made by a judge of a court of record…’

12. Since the appraisers have failed to agree on an umpire within the required time, the parties request the Court to appoint an umpire.

13. If the Court wishes the parties to propose umpires for the Court’s consideration, each party will provide a short list of suggestions to the Court with contact information and general qualifications.

The judge gets an A+ for responsiveness and addressing the adage, “justice delayed is justice denied.” One week later, on June 6, the court appointed an umpire finding:

This Order addresses the parties’ Joint Motion to Appoint Umpire (‘Joint Motion’)… Federal and state law permit the Court to appoint an umpire upon application of any party. See 9 U.S.C. § 5; TEX. CIv. PRAC. & REM. CODE § 171.041. Accordingly, the Court GRANTS the Joint Motion and appoints Jim Beneke …to serve as umpire concerning the appraisal being conducted between Plaintiffs and Defendant under the insurance contract involved in this lawsuit. 1

The court record did not indicate that the judge waited for suggestions. The record suggests that the court simply appointed Jim Beneke.

Regarding the selection of an umpire, I made the following comment in How Do Judges Appoint Umpires in an Appraisal? A Case Example from Louisiana:

The quest to predict a judge’s choice when selecting an umpire can often feel like trying to guess the winning lottery numbers – it’s anybody’s guess. Doing homework on the court’s past decisions can give you an edge, kind of like studying past lottery numbers, but let’s be honest, it’s still a bit of a shot in the dark.

My considered opinion is that all parties involved in an appraisal should try very hard to put their heads together to agree on someone they both think will be fair. It’s a bit like choosing a movie everyone wants to watch – a delicate balance of interests and preferences. If you don’t, well, brace yourselves. You might just end up with the judicial equivalent of a surprise movie pick – and who knows? You could be watching a courtroom drama, a legal thriller, or even a comedy, depending on whom the judge selects as the umpire. So, it’s probably best to agree on someone beforehand unless you’re feeling particularly lucky or adventurous.

Regarding Jim Beneke, it is hard to think of a person with a better reputation and commitment to fair and professional treatment. Fourteen years ago, I noted Jim Beneke in Professional Conduct and Public Adjusters:

Jim Beneke, a past president of NAPIA, wrote me a letter on professionalism that I hope he will allow to be published in its entirety. Part of what he wrote explains how teaching and mentoring make the teacher and mentor much better for the effort. He stated:

…about a year ago, I hired a young, trainee adjuster, Matt Thannisch. He has a very bright future in this business. I promise you that you don’t have a good appreciation for what you know until you have to explain every step you take every day of the week. Having worked more or less alone for almost 20 years, I have developed a routine and habits that just come naturally to me. Being responsible for a young adjuster has caused me to take stock in what we do, and focus on issues that I had long since left behind.

…over the last year, I have been involved in the reemergence of TAPIA, and am the current President. Historically, TAPIA has been made up of “experienced” adjusters who have practiced in Texas for years. This time around, the group is made up, primarily, of new public adjusters. Every meeting is an eye opener (one guy wanted to know why we couldn’t add 10 and 10 to our fee!), and is a reminder that what we really do is take care of the small details in making sure that our clients are treated fairly.

All of us pride ourselves on the biggest of our successes, but it wouldn’t hurt any of us to step back and take a look at what we are doing through the eyes of a newcomer. I think it will surprise you what you learn.

It certainly does not surprise me that the court unilaterally found Jim Beneke worthy of being an umpire in an appraisal proceeding. He certainly enjoys a stellar reputation for honesty and fairness.

Thought For The Day

Be honest, truthful, and altruistic. If you concern yourself with taking care of others’ welfare, your own will be fulfilled.
—Dalai Lama


1 Kumar v. Homesite Ins. Co., No. 3:24-CV-0445 (N.D. Tex. June 6, 2024).



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