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tunnelIn a recent Texas car accident case, an on-duty police officer rear-ended the plaintiff’s van. Afterward, the police supervisor came to the scene and spoke to both the police officer and the plaintiff. He prepared the investigative reports.

Later, the plaintiff sued the city for damages under the Texas Tort Claims Act on the ground that the officer’s negligence caused the collision and his serious injuries. He claimed that the city had been given actual and formal notice. The city denied the allegations and argued in a plea to the jurisdiction it hadn’t been given timely actual and formal notice of the claims.

The plaintiff argued the notice requirement was satisfied because he’d actually told the officer and his supervisor about his injuries at the time of the accident. The trial court denied the city’s plea to the jurisdiction.

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stop signIn a recent Texas car accident case, the court considered a personal injury lawsuit that arose when the defendant ran a stop sign and crashed into the plaintiff. The defendant was visiting his brother from the UK, and he ran a stop sign. His car hit the plaintiff’s car. The plaintiff went to the ER, but the defendant walked away unscathed. The accident happened near a home.

The neighbors had a tree in their yard that the defendant told police blocked his view of the stop sign. The cop had not heard of any prior accidents at the intersection, and he’d never pulled anyone over for running that stop sign.

The plaintiff and his wife sued the defendant. The defendant designated the city and the property owners whose trees blocked the sign as responsible third parties. He argued that it was their negligent failure to trim the trees that was the legal cause of the accident.

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railroad trackIn a recent Texas appellate case, the plaintiff appealed in a lawsuit arising out of the death of four veterans in a flatbed trailer during a parade. A train hit their parade float and killed them.

In 2012, two tractor-trailers pulled flatbed trailers that were floats in the parade. Twelve vets and their wives were sitting on top of the trailers. One vet would later testify that as the first tractor-trailer went over the tracks, he heard the railroad crossing bell. Warning lights were activated. He thought the train was stopped, but later he could see it was moving fast and would hit the second tractor-trailer.

The train was about 2,500 feet away from the crossing when the engineer on the train saw the first tractor-trailer go through the crossing. He made a remark to the conductor but didn’t slow the train. Soon afterward, when the train was about 1,200 feet away, the second trailer went through the railroad crossing. The crew beeped the train horn. An emergency brake was applied when the train was close to the crossing, but the brakes weren’t engaged until the train was about to hit the tractor-trailer at 62 mph.

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seatbeltIn a recent Texas wrongful death case, the plaintiffs claimed that at about 3:30 in the morning, a police officer put the decedent in the back of a patrol car. She wasn’t seatbelted in, or else she wasn’t properly seatbelted. The defendant’s car hit the patrol car in an intersection after running a red light. As a result, the decedent was thrown from the patrol car and suffered serious and ultimately fatal injuries.

The defendant admitted to officers she’d just left a bar nearby. She was taken to a hospital and determined to be drunk. The decedent’s family filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging the officer acted within the course and scope of her employment with the city. According to the plaintiffs, the officer was driving a city-owned car, negligently failed to use a seatbelt on the decedent, which allowed her to be thrown out of the patrol car, and failed to keep a lookout. The lawsuit also alleged the officer failed to slow, failed to hit the brakes appropriately, failed to take evasive action, handcuffed the decedent when she wasn’t under arrest, didn’t follow proper procedures related to seatbelts, and improperly provided police protection. The plaintiffs argued that the officer’s negligence was the legal cause of the decedent’s death, and the City was vicariously liable.

The plaintiffs claimed that the city had waived governmental immunity for a death caused by the use of tangible personal property like handcuffs and damages resulting from governmental functions like police protection. The City argued there was no subject matter jurisdiction. It argued that the officer had received a call about a suspected drunk driver and found the decedent sitting next to her car so drunk she couldn’t stand up. The officer was taking her to the Sobering Center. The drunk driver later pled guilty to intoxication manslaughter and was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment. The city argued that it was undisputed the drunk driver caused the accident, so the city hadn’t waived its Texas Tort Claims Act immunity based on the officer’s use of the car.

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dentistA recent Texas dental malpractice decision concerned a plaintiff who sued a dentist for dental malpractice, breach of warranty, medical battery, and other causes of action. She claimed that in 2012, she’d asked her dentist to repair her damaged teeth. He told her she needed full dental implants and tooth extractions. She had a tooth surgery but continued to feel pain and discomfort afterward. Four months afterward, she reported her pain to the dentist. He then removed bone spurs from her mouth.

He also performed a second surgery to replace the implants with lower and upper dentures. After the surgery, he told her that her dentures didn’t fit right and suggested taking more dental impressions. He told her that the original wax impressions of her mouth were accurate, but the resulting dentures didn’t fit right, and he’d need to submit new impressions. He made new impressions, and in the following month, he surgically implanted six mini-implants in her upper mouth and lower mouth.

Later, she still had pain and got an infection. She went to another dentist several months later. He diagnosed her with having infected dental implants, infected root tips, and badly fitting dentures. He removed the dentures and put in temporary ones. A month later, she had a fifth implant surgery, and her tongue was cut, which caused pain for the next eight months. She sued the first dentist for dental malpractice, claiming he’d breached his duty as a health care professional by putting improper dentures into her mouth twice. She asserted his breaches of the standard of care had legally caused her to suffer serious economic, emotional, and physical harm.

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open casketThe Texas Court of Appeals recently considered a wrongful death claim allegedly arising out of medical malpractice. The plaintiff had filed a survival and wrongful death lawsuit against a hospital, claiming it was negligent and grossly negligent in treating the plaintiff in 2014. The hospital answered, denying all of the allegations included in the plaintiff’s lawsuit.

The plaintiff served an expert report from a nurse on the hospital after that. The hospital moved to dismiss the nurse’s report on the ground that she wasn’t qualified to offer opinions about causation. The plaintiff responded by asking for 30 days to fix the deficiencies in the report. The court sustained the hospital’s objections and granted a 30-day extension to fix the report defects. Trying to fix the deficiencies, the plaintiff served the report of a doctor on the hospital.

The hospital sought to dismiss and objected to the expert reports. It argued that the doctor didn’t explain the necessary ways in which there had been a breach in the professional standard of care and how that caused the injury. It also argued that the doctor’s report simply asserted that the staff had allowed the tracheostomy tube to get dislodged, and there was no detail to support this claim.

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gas stationIn a recent Texas Supreme Court decision, the Court considered a wrongful death that arose from a fistfight. Two cashiers, one of them J.R., worked at a Houston convenience store owned by a gas corporation. Two others also worked there, along with a manager. J.R.’s father had previously worked there, but he had moved on to working as a tollbooth attendant. He’d asked the manager to hire his son. The other cashier also knew the father, who drove him to and from work.

J.R. believed everyone got along until someone asked him if he was having a sexual affair with another man who worked there. J.R. felt harassed and complained. While J.R. was working at the convenience store alone, two customers complained that there was an “out of order” sign on the men’s restroom door. J.R. checked and found that the restroom wasn’t out of order, and he believed that the guy who’d harassed him before was doing it again. He complained about the coworker to his father, who called and told the coworker to stop harassing his son.

On another day when the father took him to work, the coworker came in and began threatening J.R. Things calmed down for the rest of the day, but later the coworker attacked the father and beat him up. The fight ended, but the father couldn’t breathe and had to be taken to the ER. The ER physicians misinterpreted a dark space on the X-ray and found that the left lung had filled with fluid. They tried multiple times to put in a chest tube to drain away the fluid. Eventually, the father’s condition went downhill, and sepsis resulted. He died for multiple reasons, but among the reasons was probably sepsis-caused organ failure.

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scaffoldingIn a recent Texas Supreme Court opinion, the Court considered a slip and fall case brought against a scaffolding contractor. The case arose when a pipefitter was scheduled to work overtime at a refinery. For the overtime shift, he worked with a different crew than usual, but all crewmembers were employees. The crew had the job of conducting routine maintenance. The pipefitter’s job was dangerous, and he and others were on a scaffold 15 feet above the ground and received fresh air through special equipment.

The pipefitter slipped on some plywood that wasn’t nailed down, and as a result, he fell up to his arms through a hole in the scaffold and hurt his neck. A contractor hired by the pipefitter’s employer built the scaffold. The contractor was required to follow OSHA regulations and other policies, and it needed to inspect about 3,000 scaffolds at the refinery before and during work shifts and use. The scaffold at issue was inspected a week before the work started, but the contractor’s reps weren’t there on the date of the fall, and they were not there during the three days before it.

The pipefitter sued the contractor, claiming improper construction of the scaffold and failure to warn. The contractor didn’t raise the issue of premises liability. The jury found the contractor negligent. It assigned 51% responsibility to the contractor and 49% to the pipefitter/plaintiff. The damages awarded were $178,000 in future medical expenses only.

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telephone receiverIn a 2016 Texas Supreme Court case, the Court considered an error in 911 dispatching that resulted in a wrongful death lawsuit.

The case arose from two early morning 911 calls. The calls came from two different numbers but were within 10 minutes of each other and came from the same building. Both asked for help for a drug overdose victim, but the calls were about two different victims. The second call was placed shortly before 3:00 a.m. and concerned the plaintiffs’ child. A 911 dispatcher got information about the emergency and the apartment number and told the caller that the emergency responders were on the way. The call was disconnected.

After the responders got to the building to help the drug overdose victim who was the subject of the first call, they mistakenly determined that the second call was about the same victim. They didn’t go to the plaintiffs’ son’s apartment to help him, and he died shortly before 9:00 a.m.

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craneIn a recent Texas construction case, the court considered injuries arising from the collapse of a crane on a commercial construction site. The issue the appellate court examined was whether the plaintiff was prevented from obtaining damages under common law, due to the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act.

The case arose when the superintendent for the general contractor on a big construction project was injured in connection with the installation of pilings. To install pilings, the crew drilled a hole in the earth and then pumped grout into the hole. A steel rebar cage was dropped into the grout, which hardened around the cage to form a piling. Heavy machinery is used to build the piling. One of the subcontractors had adopted several policies to make sure the pilings were finished safely.

After a piling was completed, the crew had several cubic yards of grout left over, but the grout was insufficient to fully complete another hole. The superintendent of the subcontractor ordered the crew to start another piling. The foreman opposed this plan but agreed to follow it anyway. The superintendent of the subcontractor left, and grout was pumped into a new hole on the assumption that another shipment of grout would be arriving soon. That shipment was delayed, and the grout started to harden. When the grout finally arrived and was mixed into the old grout, the pressure under the old grout built up and caused the augur to shoot up. The cable backlashed, and the augur got stuck.

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