Biography

Mary-Ellen is a multi-faceted, results driven, and strategic leader and litigator with more than 19 years of experience in leading both legal and management operations. She has a strong history in identifying issues, advising clients, assisting clients in capitalizing on areas of opportunity, advising clients on litigation avoidance, leading internal training efforts, developing effective teams and efficient processes, dispute resolution, litigation management, and trying cases.

Her primary focus is complex insurance litigation, commercial litigation, business litigation, general civil litigation, and real estate litigation. She has extensive experience in representing insurers and insurance companies in complex litigation matters in the states of Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama and federal courts nationwide. She has a history of being an aggressive and professional litigator with proven success in attaining favorable settlement where possible. If no settlement possible, she has a proven track record of obtaining favorable results via motion practice and trial. 

Mary-Ellen has expansive experience in large loss insurance defense litigation, mass tort litigation, catastrophe litigation, and insurance coverage litigation. Mary-Ellen handles all stages of litigation and has litigated hundreds of cases for insurers and insureds nationwide after Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Jeanne, Ivan, Dennis, Katrina, Rita, Wilma, Ike, and Sandy. She advises clients on the existence of insurance coverage related to the handling of insurance claims under commercial general liability, automobile, homeowners, personal and commercial property, and Standard Flood Insurance Policies. Mary-Ellen litigates insurance coverage disputes and extra-contractual liability lawsuits involving the duty of good faith and fair dealing, Stowers liability, the Texas Insurance Code, and the Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Mary-Ellen has a long history of representing multiple National Flood Insurance Program Write-Your-Own carriers following major flooding events.

From 2017-2020, Mary-Ellen served as in-house counsel for a Texas political subdivision where she managed internal litigation and outside counsel in various types of litigation matters with a focus on eminent domain litigation and real estate disputes.

As a service to her clients, Mary-Ellen provides seminars and training on a variety of topics related to business operations, risk management, claims management, and litigation.

Representative Experience

  • In 2016, obtained a $0 defense jury verdict in Travis County in a minor impact auto collision with Stowers implications. 
  • In 2016, obtained a favorable defense verdict in a Burnet County, Texas bench trial where the plaintiff was seeking over $1 million dollars for injuries and lost wages related to a head on collision on Highway 281.
  • In 2015, obtained a favorable defense verdict in a first party underinsured motorist bystander injury case.  Plaintiff sought damages in excess of $1 million, and the jury returned a verdict of just over $50,000 – approximately what had been tendered prior to the start of trial.  Plaintiff’s counsel was a well-known reptile theory litigator, and Mary-Ellen successfully fended off the reptile tactics with a comprehensive motion in limine and artful trial objections.
  • In 2021, she was on the trial team and was responsible for drafting the opposition that successfully defeated a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss in the Eighth Judicial District Court of Clark County, Nevada.
  • In 2016, Mary-Ellen, serving as national counsel for a National Flood Insurance Program Write-Your-Own Carrier, successfully defended and dismissed Plaintiff’s breach of contract and extra-contractual claims, including common law fraud claims against the carrier.  Plaintiff claimed that the insurer misrepresented the value of his home in its initial quote and renewal notices – representing to him that the cost to replace his home would be at least what was stated in the notice.  The court ruled in favor of the carrier and in doing so recognized that the coverage limit stated in the renewal notices was not a material representation and that by its own terms, the policy was not a valued policy.
  • Mary-Ellen has successfully removed hundreds of cases to federal courts nationwide on the basis on federal question and diversity jurisdiction.  In doing so, she has also successfully defeated motions to remands filed by the non-removing parties.
  • In 2007, she obtained a successful dismissal of a substantial portion of Plaintiff’s claims in the Eastern District of Louisiana.  Plaintiff was seeking state law-based claims, federal common law claims, constitutional challenges to the National Flood Insurance Act for violation of the non-delegation clause and claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act.  The court based its dismissal on the Fifth’s Circuit decision in Wright v. Allstate and the intelligible principle doctrine.
  • In 2007, Mary-Ellen obtained a favorable motion for summary judgment result for her insurer client in the Southern District of Alabama.  She argued and successfully won a MSJ precluding a fraud claim based on misrepresentations by the insurance adjuster against a WYO Program Carrier.  At the time, this was the first case of its kind in the federal of Alabama where the court ruled in favor of the WYO Program Carrier.  The court also granted a motion for summary judgment for failure to file a proof of loss based on the 11th Circuit’s ruling in Shuford v. Fidelity.
  • Prior to the 11th Circuit’s ruling in Shuford, Mary-Ellen argued and successfully won a motion for summary judgement precluding Plaintiffs’ recovery for failure to meet the conditions precedent to filing a lawsuit.

Education

  • University of Alabama School of Law  (J.D., 2002)
  • University of Alabama  (B.A. Political Science, 1999)

Bar Admissions

  • Alabama, 2002
  • Louisiana, 2006
  • Texas, 2009

Court Admissions

  • Western District of Texas
  • Eastern District of Texas
  • Southern District of Texas
  • Southern District of Alabama
  • Middle District of Alabama
  • Northern District of Alabama
  • Eastern District of Louisiana
  • Middle District of Louisiana
  • Western District of Louisiana

Professional and Community Activities

  • Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Board Member 2021
  • Westlake Chamber of Commerce, Member 2021
  • Rotary Club of Austin Westlake, Member 2020-2021
  • Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow
  • Women’s Symphony League of Austin, New Member Committee 2021-2022
  • Member, Austin Bar Association, August 2009-Present
  • Austin Bar Association Executive Committee, Treasurer 2021-2022
  • Austin Bar Association Board of Directors, 2019-2021
  • Austin Bar Association Director of the Year, 2019-2020
  • Austin Bar Foundation Gala Co-Chair, 2019-2021
  • Austin Bar Association Leadership Academy Member, 2013
  • Austin Young Lawyers Association, Board Member, 2013-2014
  • Austin Young Lawyers Association, Outstanding Young Lawyer, 2012
  • Austin Bar Association Judicial Reception Committee Chair, 2010-2014
  • Austin Bar Association, Solo Small Firm Section Chair, 2013-2014; Vice Chair 2012-2013, Programming Committee Chair, 2011-2012
  • Dripping Springs Rotary Club, President 2015-2016
  • Dripping Springs Rotary Club Foundation Chair, 2016-2017

Speeches and Presentations

  • “Avoiding the Bad Faith Setup," CLM Southwest Conference, Tampa, Florida, 2016.

Professional Recognition

  • Recognized as a Silver Client Champion by Martindale Hubbell
  • Recognized as an AV Preeminent Peer Reviewed Lawyer by Martindale Hubbell

Publications

  • Flood Insurance 101; Filing the Proof of Loss for Hurricanes Gustav and Ike Claims, Texas Young Lawyers Association, E-News, June/July 2009
  • Alfa Life and Health Insurance Compendium, January 1, 2009
  • Exempt Employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act, The Alabama Municipal Journal, February 2006
  • The Fair Labor Standards Act: A Brief Overview, The Alabama Municipal Journal, March 2005