Articles Posted in Work Injury

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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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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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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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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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oil rigIn a recent Texas work injury case, the court considered a case in which a man was fatally injured while working on a drilling rig that was drilling a well on a lease owned by a company. The survivors of the man sued the company as well as his employer, claiming negligence and premises liability.

The company was the owner or operator of oil and gas leases and had contracted with the man’s employer, a drilling company, to drill a well on its mineral lease. The decedent and other rig hands were rigging up the rig to prepare for drilling. The decedent was working in the cellar, a substructure area of the rig, trying to repair a pipe that worked to vacuum fluid from the cellar.

He and other rig hands used a catline to lift the cellar jet line to make the repairs. While using the catline, it got caught in the cathead, causing the cellar jet line to rise suddenly and hit him in the head. This caused his death.

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telephone poleIn a recent Texas appellate decision, a plaintiff appealed a take-nothing judgment in his personal injury and premises liability claim against an electrical company. The case arose when a man was working as a telephone lineman for a subcontractor of AT&T.

The subcontractor’s work was to install a new line of telephone cable on specific utility poles. These poles had been built in the 1940s in the city’s roads, based on a franchise agreement. At the time, the defendant owned the poles, and they were jointly used by the defendant and AT&T as power and telephone lines, based on an agreement made between their predecessors.

The defendant’s primary power line was attached to every other pole. When installing a new telephone line, the plaintiff used a chain hoist attached to a pole to which the power line was attached. As he took hold of the chain hoist, he tugged it, and the power line attached to the pole touched a bolt on the top of another pole to which it was attached. There was an excessive current that blew the fuse and caused a piece of metal to impale the plaintiff’s hand.

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power-3-1244917-e1489526367891A recent Texas personal injury lawsuit arose when a worker who was helping a subcontractor lay a cement parking lot around a sales office was electrocuted. The property owner, a supply company, had hired a general contractor and assigned one of its employees to coordinate with the subcontractor and monitor what was happening.

The worker was working at night and trying to level freshly poured concrete with a bull float. The bull float’s handle was 16 inches long. As the worker pulled the float back toward himself, it touched an electrical line that was over or next to the lot where the work was being completed. Later in a deposition, the worker testified he knew about the line’s presence because he’d seen it before.

He also testified that people from the supply company were not only present at the scene but also told him and his coworkers what to do. He assumed that they were from the supply company based on coworker comments and admitted he didn’t know who they were. He admitted that nobody told him to use the float, but said that the people told him to pour the cement.

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forkliftIn 4Front Engineered Solutions, Inc. v. Rosales, a Texas appellate court considered a case in which a subcontractor sued a property owner after suffering injuries while working with a contractor on the property. The safety manager of a distribution warehouse owned by 4Front contracted with an electrician to repair a sign above the entrance. The electrician had previously done work for 4Front without a problem, using equipment borrowed from 4Front. This time, he subcontracted with the plaintiff, also an electrician, to help him.

The electrician would later testify that when the safety manager asked him to repair the sign, he’d asked to use a scissors lift he’d used on prior occasions, and the safety manager agreed. However, when the electrician and the plaintiff arrived, the safety manager said that it wasn’t available and that he could use a stand-up forklift to do the job. The electrician answered that he could operate the forklift, but slowly.

The electrician and the plaintiff worked for three to four hours one day, and then they came back after a two-day absence to finish the work. The electrician operated the forklift with the plaintiff standing in a man basket attached to the forklift. While the plaintiff was up by the sign on the second morning, the electrician drove the lift off the edge of the sidewalk, and the lift toppled. The plaintiff fell and was badly hurt.

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scaffoldingIn Alonso v. Westin Homes Corporation, a Texas appellate court considered whether summary judgment was proper in a premises liability case. The case arose when a framer was working on homes being constructed by Westin Homes Corporation and related companies. He didn’t have a written agreement either with the company’s framing contractor or the framing contractor’s subcontractor, for which he worked directly. The framing contractor was doing its work under an independent contractor agreement.

While on the job, the framer fell and hurt his arm. He’d been putting together plywood to create the flooring for the second floor and stepped on a weak spot that broke and resulted in his fall. He’d been using a saw that was modified by the framing subcontractor so that the safety cover wouldn’t engage. When he fell, the framer tried to throw the saw away, but he inadvertently engaged it so that the blade was spinning as he fell. He landed on the saw and sliced his arm, suffering severe lacerations and nerve damage.

The framer sued Westin, claiming negligence, negligence per se, gross negligence, and premises liability. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing there was no evidence it had been negligent per se or grossly negligent. It also claimed it didn’t have control over how the work was done and didn’t actually know of the dangerous condition that caused the framer’s nerve damage.

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