Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

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gunA recent Texas wrongful death decision arose when a college freshman was shot and killed on a university campus. He was on his way to class when he was shot and killed. On the prior evening, another shooting happened in the parking lot of the same dorm. His mother sued the university for negligence and gross negligence.

She claimed that the university’s employees, representatives, and agents failed to use reasonable care in warning parents and students about the risk of harm on campus and in providing adequate security and taking steps to stop criminal activity.

The university filed a plea to the jurisdiction and a motion to dismiss the mother’s claims on the basis of governmental immunity. The mother argued that immunity was waived by the Texas Tort Claims Act, since the death was caused by a condition or use of real property or personal property. The trial court denied the motion and allowed the plaintiff a month to amend her complaint. The university filed an interlocutory appeal, arguing that her petition affirmatively negated jurisdiction.

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car crashIn a recent Texas appellate decision, a woman challenged the lower court’s judgment in a lawsuit for negligence and wrongful death. Among other things, she claimed the lower court had made a mistake in admitting a video recording of an experiment that had happened outside of court.

The case arose when the plaintiffs claimed that a minivan had crashed into a sedan driven by the defendant at an intersection controlled by a traffic signal. The minivan passenger was the mother of the plaintiffs, and she suffered fatal injuries, dying after the accident. The plaintiffs claimed the defendant had not used ordinary care in going into the intersection without paying attention to the red traffic light, not controlling her car’s speed, and not looking out carefully or applying her brakes on time. They claimed her failure to use ordinary care was the legal cause of their mother’s death and asked for loss of companionship and mental anguish as their damages, in addition to more concrete damages.

The defendant denied the claim and said the accident was caused by the driver of the car in which the decedent was riding. The defendant lived on that street and was familiar with the signal at issue. She claimed the light was green as she headed toward the intersection, and there were no other cars on the road in front of her, although there were stopped cars on the intersecting street. There was some discrepancy in her claims about stopped cars.

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ChevyA recent Texas wrongful death decision arose after a car salesman shot and killed his sales manager. One autumn, there was a confrontational sales meeting, and the salesman went into his manager’s office, took out a gun, and shot him. The sales manager died a few days later, and the salesman pled guilty to first-degree murder and went to prison on a life sentence. The manager’s family sued the salesman, as well as dealership-related entities and an employment screening company.

Back when the salesman applied at the dealership where he worked, the dealership used the services of a pre-employment background screening company to screen prospective employees. The company would interview a job applicant, perform a drug test and a criminal records check, and provide the results of the screening to the dealership. In this case, the screening company reported that there were no criminal records, and the drug test was negative. It also stated there was an inconsistency about why he left his earlier job.

The salesman was hired, and then he left on good terms and moved elsewhere. He worked at other car dealerships and then came back to Texas and applied for a sales job. He went through another screening and was hired, but he quit. He again applied with the dealership for a sales job and went through another screening.

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fire truckIn a recent Texas wrongful death action, the appellate court considered the trial court’s denial of a city’s plea to the jurisdiction. The case arose after the husband and the adult kids of the decedent sued the city under the Texas Tort Claims Act. They claimed that the fire department personnel who responded to their 911 call for a lift and assist for the decedent failed to provide integral safety features that should have been contained in the emergency medical services vehicle to carry out a lift and assist, and the failure had legally caused her injury and death.

They claimed that they’d called 911, asking for help at home because the decedent had fallen out of bed and they couldn’t lift her back into bed. Four or five staff from the fire station came in an emergency medical services vehicle. The staff had been called to give lift and assist help to the decedent in prior situations and knew about her condition.

When they arrived, the decedent’s legs were under the bed. The staff stood behind her, put his arms under her arms, and yanked upwards. Because of this, her leg hit the bed frame, and she suffered a laceration under the knee. The family claimed they failed to put her body in a proper position to use a safety device like a portable lift board or sling. The laceration caused substantial blood loss, and the family claimed that the emergency personnel wrapped the wound but didn’t stop the bleeding. She went to the hospital, suffered a heart attack, and died.

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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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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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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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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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