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Earlier this month, the state’s high court issued a written opinion in a Texas workplace injury case requiring the court to determine whether the trial court was acting within its discretion when it precluded video evidence without actually viewing the video. Ultimately, the court concluded that “except in rare circumstances,” a court must observe a video before determining if it should be admitted into evidence.

Construction WorkerThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a senior mechanic on an offshore drilling rig. One day while at work, the plaintiff injured his back. The plaintiff underwent two back surgeries within 13 months, but the pain remained. He was never able to return to work. The plaintiff’s physician determined the plaintiff was “totally disabled.”

The plaintiff filed a workplace injury claim under the Jones Act, claiming that his employer was negligent and that the drilling rig was not seaworthy. After the case was filed, the plaintiff underwent a functional capacity evaluation (FCE) to determine his physical abilities. The results of the FCE indicated that the plaintiff’s responses were consistent with someone who was exaggerating their symptoms.

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surgeonIn a Texas medical malpractice case, the lower court dismissed the plaintiffs’ claim without giving them a 30-day extension to fix deficiencies in their expert reports. The case arose when a man was admitted to a medical center and was diagnosed with the narrowing of a carotid artery and the occlusion of a coronary artery. He had coronary surgery. After the surgery, he suffered from a lack of oxygen to the brain. The family decided to take him off ventilator support, and he died the next day.

His wife sued the medical center, a health system foundation, and a doctor under the wrongful death and survival statutes. She claimed medical negligence and gross negligence against the defendant, as well as respondeat superior against the entities.

The plaintiff claimed the entities were liable because the nurses didn’t institute several interventions to fix the critically low oxygen saturations and that they should be liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior because their negligence had caused the man’s death. They served two expert reports on time under Texas Civil Practices & Remedies Code section 74.351.

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In some cases, employers can be held responsible for their employees’ actions, including Texas car accidents involving employees. In a recent decision, a Texas appeals court considered the employer’s responsibility after its employee was involved in a car accident. The plaintiff was in a car accident with a moving company’s employee, which resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries. The employee made a left turn across a four-lane highway as she was leaving a parking lot. The plaintiff was unable to avoid the employee’s car and drove into the left side of the employee’s car. The employee was cited for failing to yield the right of way.

Wrecked CarThe plaintiff sued the moving company, alleging it was vicariously liable for the employee’s negligence. The plaintiff also alleged that the moving company failed to properly supervise its employee, negligently hired the employee, and negligently retained the employee, among other claims. The moving company argued the case should be dismissed because the employee was not acting in the course and scope of her employment with the company at the time of the collision.

Vicarious Liability

Vicarious liability refers to the liability of an employer or another responsible party for the actions of another person. Under one type of vicarious liability, known as respondeat superior, an employer may be held liable for the negligent acts of its employee if the employee’s actions fall within the course and scope of the employee’s employment. According to Texas law, an employee’s acts must be within the scope of the employee’s general authority, in furtherance of the employer’s business, and taken to accomplish a task for which the employee was hired. In addition, generally an employee is not in the course and scope of employment while driving to and from work.

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Texas medical malpractice claims must meet certain requirements in order to continue in court. In a recent case, the Supreme Court of Texas issued a decision concerning a plaintiff’s requirement to submit an expert report in a medical malpractice case.

DoctorIn that case, a woman had cataract surgery on her left eye. Before the surgery began, a nurse anesthetist administered anesthesia by injecting anesthetic into the space behind the globe of her eye. The woman alleged that the nurse negligently inserted the needle into her left optic nerve, causing her permanent nerve damage and vision loss.

The woman sued the nurse and his employer. In support of her claim, she submitted an expert report, which she later amended. The expert stated that he believed that the woman suffered an injury to the left optic nerve as a result of the nurse’s administration of anesthesia. The expert believed that the nurse was negligent in part by damaging the woman’s left optic nerve by sticking it with the needle.

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In a recent case, the state’s Supreme Court ruled against a plaintiff in a Texas workplace injury case. The plaintiff was employed by an energy company, where his employer and another energy company were drilling for oil. The incident that resulted in this lawsuit occurred when an employee of the other energy company asked him to clean up a spill of fracking liquid; however, the employee did not provide him with any protective gear. Evidently, the liquid contained toxic chemicals that came into contact with the plaintiff’s body. The plaintiff’s skin was burned when it came into contact with the liquid, and within hours, he was in severe pain. About four months later, he was diagnosed with squamous cell cancer.

FactoryProcedural Posture

About two years after being diagnosed with cancer, the plaintiff sued several entities but did not include the energy company that employed the employee who instructed him to clean up the spill. However, shortly thereafter, the plaintiff amended his petition to include the company, alleging that it was negligent in allowing the liquid to leak and asking him to clean it up without protective measures. He argued that the company was liable for his cancer, which was a new illness that developed from his exposure.

The energy company argued that they were entitled to summary judgment because the claim was filed past the statute of limitations. The plaintiff argued that the statute of limitations was tolled because he could not have known about their negligence until after he was diagnosed with cancer. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the company, and the court of appeals then reversed the decision. The defendant then appealed to the Texas Supreme Court.

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Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Texas issued a written opinion in a Texas car accident case involving the question of whether the defendant employer could be held liable for the allegedly negligent actions of an employee. Ultimately, the court concluded that the lower court improperly granted the defendant employer’s motion for summary judgment, finding that a genuine issue of fact remained as to whether the employer was vicariously liable. Thus, the court reversed the lower court’s judgment and remanded the case.

Oil RigThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff worked for a company that drilled oil and gas wells. On this particular job, the plaintiff and the rest of the crew were put up in company housing about 30 miles away from the drilling site. A contract between the plaintiff’s employer and the owner of the land where the wells were to be drilled stated that the supervising crew member would be compensated for driving the crew members to and from the drilling site.

Thus, for this particular job, the plaintiff’s crew supervisor provided the plaintiff and the rest of the crew with transportation to the drill site. One day, the supervisor was involved in a car accident that killed two members of the crew and injured the plaintiff. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the employer, arguing that it was vicariously liable for the supervisor’s negligence in causing the accident.

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Liability in Texas car crashes is generally governed by negligence principles. Negligence refers to a party’s failure to act in a way that an ordinarily prudent person would act under the circumstances to prevent an unreasonable risk of harm. Under Texas law, the elements of a negligence claim are:  1) a legal duty owed by one person to another; 2) a breach of that duty; 3) damages; and 4) proximate causation of the damages by the breach of duty.

Rear-EndedThe standard of care one person owes another depends on the circumstances surrounding the accident as well as the relationship between the parties. Generally, the standard of care refers to the care and diligence that an ordinarily prudent person would use to prevent injuries under the circumstances. Therefore, a plaintiff must show that a defendant did something (or failed to do something) that a person exercising ordinary care would not have done under the circumstances.

In car accident cases, in order to hold another driver liable, a plaintiff must show that the driver was negligent and also that the other driver’s negligence proximately caused the plaintiff’s injuries. Proximate cause refers to both the direct cause of the damages and the foreseeability of the damages. In cases involving more than one negligent driver, each driver is jointly and severally liable for the resulting damages.

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When someone is injured due to the allegedly negligent act of a government employee or entity, they may be entitled to compensation for their injuries through a Texas personal injury lawsuit. However, as a general rule, government entities are not liable for injuries caused by their negligent actions related to carrying out government business. In some specific situations, however, government immunity is waived. This is normally through statutorily defined exceptions contained in the Texas Tort Claims Act (TTCA).

Police SirensIn order for an accident victim to pursue a valid claim against a government entity, the victim must comply with the procedural requirements set forth in the TTCA. One of the major requirements of the TTCA is the notice requirement. As a general rule, notice must be provided to the agency that is being named as a defendant. However, in some cases, notice need not be provided if the agency has actual notice through other means.

Courts have held that a government can be said to have actual notice of a potential claim if the agency has subjective knowledge that there was an accident involving death or injury, the government agency’s fault contributed to the accident, and the government knows the identity of the parties. A recent case illustrates how courts strictly interpret this requirement, and how an accident victim’s failure to comply with the requirement may adversely affect their case.

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Seemingly small decisions in a case can end up making or breaking a case. In a recent Texas construction injury case, the Supreme Court of Texas dismissed a $2 million judgment on appeal after the plaintiff submitted a negligence claim to the jury instead of a premises liability claim.

ScaffoldingThe Facts of the Case

An employee was working on scaffolding at a refinery when he slipped on a piece of plywood, causing him to fall through a hole in the scaffold and suffer a neck injury as a result. The scaffolding was constructed by a scaffolding company that the employee’s company had hired to build scaffolds at the refinery. The scaffolding company was required to inspect every scaffold at the refinery before each work shift and before each scaffold’s use. There were almost 3,000 scaffolds at the refinery at the time. The scaffolding company’s employees were not present on the date of the employee’s fall.

The employee brought a lawsuit against the scaffolding company, arguing that the company improperly built the scaffolding and failed to remedy or warn of a dangerous condition. The case went to trial, and the trial court submitted a general negligence question to the jury. The jury found the scaffolding company was negligent and awarded the employee $2 million in past and future damages. The scaffolding company appealed, arguing that the court should not have submitted a general negligence question to the jury because the claim was a premises liability claim.

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tiresA recent Texas product liability decision arose from a one-vehicle accident. The plaintiff was driving his vehicle with his family when a back tire burst, triggering a rollover. Those inside the car were injured.

The driver had bought the car used from a car shop that had gotten it as salvage and repaired it before selling it to the husband. The tire in question was made by the defendant. However, the tire had triple the tread amount that is mandated by federal regulations at the time of the accident. The injured plaintiffs sued the tire manufacturer, claiming the tire was negligently or defectively designed and made. They also claimed gross negligence and failure to warn causes of action.

The plaintiffs hired a forensic tire analyst to provide expert testimony. He testified that the tire was made and designed with defects. The manufacturer moved for summary adjudication of the plaintiffs’ claims. It also tried to get the expert’s testimony excluded, arguing that he wasn’t qualified or reliable. Summary judgment was granted, but the request to leave out the expert testimony was denied. The claims against the manufacturer were separated from the plaintiff’s claims against the used car dealership that sold the car.

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