In a recent Texas wrongful death case, a car that drove into oil-based mud cuttings slid from the roadway and rolled over. A passenger was ejected and killed. An oil company had loaded mud into a dump trailer operated by an independent trucking company. Neither the trucking company nor the oil company had made sure the truckload of mud was adequately attached before the truck left the drill site.
The decedent’s parents, the next friend of her minor daughter, and the estate administrator sued the oil company and others for negligence. The oil company moved for summary judgment. It argued it didn’t have a duty to the decedent by law because the trucking company owed a non-delegable duty to secure the load, and its internal policies didn’t generate a duty to secure an independent contractor’s load. It also argued it wasn’t foreseeable that the trucking company would act negligently. The trial court granted the motion.
On appeal, the plaintiff argued that it was an error for the lower court to grant summary judgment based on the argument the oil company didn’t have a duty to secure the mud load. The oil company needed to present evidence to show it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The appellate court explained the parties hadn’t relied on conflicting evidence. An oil company operated a drilling rig and hired another oil company to control solids. The solids control operator provided evidence that he owed a duty to load trailers transporting mud from the drill site and that he hadn’t relied on the driver of the trailer for how to load the trailer.