Articles Posted in Trucking Accidents

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In Freer Volunteer Fire Department v. Wallace, a Texas appellate court considered a sovereign immunity case. The case arose when an ambulance driver was driving a man who was suspected to be having a heart attack to the hospital in an ambulance owned by the Freer Volunteer Fire Department. The ambulance hit the plaintiff’s car. The plaintiff’s daughter was a passenger in the car.

The plaintiff sued the driver and the city, claiming that the driver’s negligence injured her and her daughter. The driver filed an answer, claiming to be in the course and scope of his employment as a volunteer fireman and arguing he was immune from suit. The plaintiff added the Freer Volunteer Fire Department as a defendant. It filed an answer, also claiming that the driver was in the course and scope of his employment as a volunteer for it and that it was immune from suit. The plaintiff amended her petition again to drop the city as a defendant.

The driver and the Freer Volunteer Fire Department moved jointly to dismiss the driver under section 101.106(e) of the Texas Tort Claims Act (“Act”). This code section specifies that if a lawsuit is filed against a governmental unit and its employees, the employees must be immediately dismissed once the governmental unit files a motion for dismissal. In this case, the motion stated the driver was a volunteer employee and asked for dismissal. The plaintiff did amend and dropped the driver as a defendant.

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In Swearinger v. Guajardo, the plaintiff was hurt when a truck driven by the defendant and owned by United Van Lines hit his car. The plaintiff sued the defendant for negligence and brought in the defendant’s employer under a theory of respondeat superior and negligent entrustment.

The jury found the defendant employee negligent and awarded the plaintiff damages for past physical pain and mental anguish, future physical pain and mental anguish, and past and future physical impairment. The defendant and his employer filed a motion for a new trial, which was denied.

The defendant and the employer appealed, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support the jury’s damages award. The appellate court explained that it would sustain a no-evidence challenge on appeal when there is no evidence or only a scintilla of evidence to support a vital fact, the court is barred from giving weight to that evidence, or it conclusively establishes the opposite of the vital fact.

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Common Links to More and More Trucking Accidents

For more information about common links and the underlying causes of accidents involving 18 wheelers call Carabin Shaw at 1-800-862-1260. The call is free, the consultation is free.

With a 20% increase in trucking accidents over the last two decades according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA), there are more and more trucking accidents occurring across Texas.

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In the 2016 case of Rayner v. Dillon, a Texas Court of Appeals considered a truck accident case involving the long-haul driver of a tractor-trailer rig who had years of gaps and mistakes in his required driving logs. The driver had 30 years of experience as of the date of the accident, and he was hired by his employer three years before the accident.

The case arose when the truck driver hit the left-rear of a woman’s car on I-30 after changing from the center to the right lane. The woman initially refused medical care but went to the ER that night, complaining about pain in her head, neck, and lower back. She eventually had an anterior cervical discectomy and other spinal surgeries. She sued the truck driver and his employer for personal injuries. The driver argued that she was in his blind spot. He had received a citation for changing lanes unsafely.

In order to recover exemplary damages, a plaintiff must prove gross negligence by the defendant. The plaintiff in the current case presented evidence to support a claim of gross negligence. This evidence included the driver’s repeated falsification of his log book, admissions by the employer that the driver was the second-worst perpetrator of log book violations among its employee drivers but was not terminated, and 48 safety-related violations by the employer’s drivers in April 2010, among other egregious actions. The plaintiff was awarded over $1 million in compensatory damages as well as exemplary damages of $2,000 against the driver and more than $1 million against the driver’s employer. The jury found gross negligence by both the driver and the employer.

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In Imamovic v. Milstead, a Texas appellate court considered a rear-ending case in which the jury awarded zero damages. The case arose when the 42-year-old plaintiff was working as a vehicle-for-hire inspector for a city, traveling around the city to inspect cabs, limos, and buses. While she was stopped in her Prius at a red light, a truck struck her car from behind. She claimed the force caused her to want to black out. Later, an investigator concluded that both her car and the truck were stopped at a red light when the truck moved and hit the back of the car.

When the police responded to the scene, the plaintiff told them she didn’t need medical care, and she drove away in her Prius. She woke up feeling sore, and the day after that, the pain in her neck was unbearable. She made an appointment with a doctor who worked for her primary medical provider. He prescribed her pain medication and anti-inflammatories and ordered x-rays. The plaintiff claimed the doctor ordered physical therapy, but the doctor didn’t note this order.

The doctor’s notes said he put the plaintiff on light transitional duty and told her to come back for follow-up. She went to physical therapy but didn’t go back to work and waited two months before coming back to see the doctor. Her excuse when testifying was that she didn’t think the doctor would do anything for her, and she didn’t control when the medical center scheduled its appointments. Continue reading →

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In CMH Set and Finish, Inc. v. Taylor, a defendant appealed a Texas court’s judgment in favor of the plaintiff on personal injury and property damage claims. The defendant was a parent corporation of multiple entities, one of which manufactured cabinets. It owned a warehouse where lumber was cut to match certain manufacturing specifications, and this lumber was towed to plants.

In 2010, the company asked one of its truck drivers to take a trailer of lumber from a warehouse to a manufacturing facility. The driver used a flashlight to look at her assigned truck and trailer, and then she left for the plant. Two hours into the drive, two of the wheel-and-tire assemblies (each about 200 pounds) slid from the left side of the trailer’s rear axle and crashed into the plaintiff’s pickup truck.

The plaintiff sued the company and the driver, claiming their negligence was the cause of the accident. He also sued his insurer for benefits under his uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. He filed in Grayson County and claimed that this venue was appropriate under the Texas Insurance Code. The company and driver filed motions to transfer the case to another venue on the grounds that it should be brought in Collin County, where the accident took place. The trial court denied their motions.

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In Hoke v. The Campbell Group, LLC, the plaintiff appealed the granting of summary judgment to defendants The Campbell Group, LLC and Crown Pine Timber 1, L.P. in a premises liability lawsuit. The case arose when the plaintiff’s car crashed into a logging truck while they were both traveling on Highway 96.

The plaintiff was in the right lane, and the logging truck was in the left. The truck tried to turn onto a private logging road that was owned and managed by the defendants. It turned in front of the plaintiff and hit the brakes, thereby stopping in the road. The plaintiff hit the back of the truck and suffered injuries.

She sued, alleging that (1) the defendants failed to use adequate signs to warn the public of any unusual commercial activity, (2) the defendants failed to inspect the site for possible hazards that would interfere with those traveling through the area, (3) the defendants failed to use a safe worksite plan to reduce hazards to the public, and (4) the defendants failed to provide a safe entrance for logging trucks trying to get onto their property. The petition didn’t reference negligence per se, negligent activity, or any statute.

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In Homman v. Kugler, a husband and wife involved in a single-vehicle accident sued a retail outlet and its owner, who was also the man who loaded their trailer. The plaintiff worked for David’s Patio, and on the day of the accident, he was driving a pickup and trailer for the defendant retail outlet to pick up angle irons. The owner of the retail outlet used a forklift to put the loan on the trailer. The plaintiff used only a single strap to secure the load and then drove back to his company.

The plaintiff started to get onto the freeway, but the trailer began swaying, pushed forward, and lifted the back wheels of the pickup. The pickup spun, balancing on two wheels on its side, and then the trailer broke off and rolled away. The pickup sat back down on its four wheels. The plaintiff wasn’t cited for the accident and did not see a doctor right away.

He went back home feeling sore. The next day, when he woke, he felt sore from his upper buttocks to his skull. He went to the doctor and was diagnosed with herniated and bulging discs. The doctor prescribed physical therapy and epidural steroid injections. He was also told he needed fusion surgery on his lower back, but he hadn’t gotten this surgery at the time of trial.

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In Gomez v. Cooke, a Texas appellate court considered a case that arose when a couple was on a cross-country road trip, traveling through Houston. The husband was driving the pickup, which was towing a camper.

Before the accident, the wife was looking at her GPS and instructing her husband to take a right turn. The truck moved toward the left, and the wife looked over to see her husband’s head had dropped and he was totally unresponsive. She tried to move his foot off the gas, but it was too late, and the truck and camper crashed into six vehicles, including a car driven by the plaintiff.

When they arrived, the emergency medical services personnel noticed that the left side of the husband’s face was drooping, and that side of his body was weak. At the hospital, the doctors determined the husband had suffered a stroke, causing him to lose consciousness.

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In Cady v. Cargile, a Texas appellate court considered a tractor-trailer crash. The decedent was visiting a friend’s house and borrowed his pickup. Two miles away, he crashed into a tractor-trailer that was stuck, blocking all lanes of traffic, and he died. His mother sued the driver of the tractor-trailer and the trucking company for wrongful death. The jury found that the death arose out of the decedent’s own negligence and awarded no damages. The trial court ordered that the plaintiff take nothing on her claims.

The plaintiff appealed on the grounds that the trial court shouldn’t have admitted the trucking company’s expert testimony because it was irrelevant. The plaintiff contended that the expert’s methodology was unreliable and that there was too big a gap between the data and the opinion proffered. The appellate court explained that there is a two-part test that covers whether expert testimony is admissible. First, the expert needs to be qualified, and second, the testimony must be relevant and based on a reliable foundation.

The trial court has broad discretion to determine whether expert evidence is admissible or not. However, in examining whether the expert’s testimony is reliable, the court is not allowed to determine the correctness of conclusions. The expert testimony may be unreliable if the expert draws conclusions based on flawed reasoning or methodology. If there is too big a gap, as argued by the plaintiff here, the opinion may not be reliable.

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