The Austin Chronicle

Linklater Loses Insurance Lawsuit

By Richard Whittaker, May 23, 2013, 11:50am, Picture in Picture

Austin-based film maker Richard Linklater has lost his lawsuit against his insurance company after they refused to cover the loss of his film making archive. Linklater's attorney Mark Kincaid confirmed that he will be appealing the ruling.

Linklater had lost the entire corporate archive for his company Detour Film Production when the Bastrop fires of 2011 swept through his property in Paige (see Linklater Sues for Bastrop Losses, May 17.) However, his insurance firm, Truck Insurance Exchange (a part of Farmers Insurance Group) refused to pay up for the loss: Its staff argued that the archive was not listed on his policy as being stored at that specific location. Linklater's attorney had argued that the wording of the policy was ambiguous, and therefore under Texas law the insurers were required to take the interpretation that required them to pay up.

In a May 17 ruling, Judge Stephen Yelenosky rejected Linklater's claim. He did concur that, if there was ambiguity, that "the court is to adopt the construction most favorable to the insured." However, he ruled that, because of the wording in a supplemental declaration to the policy, Linklater's argument was "facially unreasonable [and] would render many provisions of the contract superfluous."

The archive consisted of 130 to 140 large boxes of production materials, plus approximately 450 square feet of film props and costumes. It contained production material dating back as far as Linklater's debut picture, 1991's Slacker, right through to 2009 and Me and Orson Welles. In October 2011, Lockhart-based book and manuscript appraiser and UT adjunct professor Michael Laird appraised the collection at $500,000. At the time, he noted that it contained an "extensive series of notebooks, working drafts, memos, scripts and books with handwritten annotations, correspondence with actors and film notables, background research. There were thousands of photographs, unseen Super-8 films, 16mm films, prints of every Detour film, outtakes and other unseen footage, publicity materials, interviews, and so forth." He wrote, "Concerning the history of "modern" filmmaking in Texas, the Detour collection was easily the finest and most comprehensive in private ownership."

Linklater is seeking that he be paid out for the policy's maximum of $239,000.

UPDATE An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Michael Laird had previously appraised the Robert DeNiro collection for the Harry Ransom Center. Linklater's production company, Detour, inform us that we were given incorrect information by their lawyers on this point.

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