Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

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tireA recent Texas appellate case concerns a cement truck crash that resulted in the driver’s death. The plaintiffs in the case argued that the crash was due to a failure of the front tire on the truck. They sued the tire manufacturer as well as the company that owned the cement truck.

During discovery, they asked the manufacturer to produce certain tire building machines that were used to put the liner and steel belts into the tires. The manufacturer objected and argued, among other things, that it asked for data that was confidential or a trade secret.

The plaintiffs moved to compel production of the tire building machines in order to compel discovery filed by Goodyear. The manufacturer responded with its manager’s declaration that the tires in question had stopped being produced in 2010 and that none of the tires now being produced had the same specs as the subject tire.

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braceletsIn Knox v. Rana, a Texas appellate court considered the wrongful death claim of a woman’s children against the cancer center where she’d been treated. The woman had survived endometrial and breast cancers and was getting radiation treatment from a defendant doctor for a basal cell carcinoma lesion on her nose. The doctor ordered a PET scan, based on the woman’s prior history of cancer. The scan showed she had a mass that seemed like metastatic disease in her pelvis. However, the doctor never told her this or ordered her to obtain treatment.

Later, the defendants would provide evidence that the mother was informed about the worrisome nature of the mass in her pelvis and was asked to get a follow-up in three months. She didn’t undergo the follow-up and in 2012 was diagnosed with metastatic cancer. She passed away in 2013 at age 76, due to her metastatic cancer.

The woman’s children filed a lawsuit against the doctor and cancer center. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. The lower court granted the motion. The children appealed. The appellate court explained that the Texas Supreme Court had held that the Wrongful Death Act authorizes recovery for injuries that actually cause death, rather than those that cause less-than-even odds of avoiding death.

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cemeteryIn Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc. v. Elsey, two engineering companies appealed the trial court’s denial of a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ wrongful death lawsuit. Their argument was that the plaintiffs had failed to file a certificate of merit as required by section 150.002 of the Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code.

The case arose upon the wrongful death of a man who worked as a sound engineer for 30 years, most of the time for Lockheed Martin and Jacobs Engineering, but also for NASA. The decedent built structures for testing in the acoustics lab. All of the construction was performed at the direction of the defendants. In bringing their lawsuit, the man’s surviving family argued that when he constructed these structures, he wasn’t given the appropriate personal protective equipment to work with various materials that contained carcinogens.

The family also alleged the decedent had come home every day covered in a dust that contained carcinogens that led to his getting cancer and dying. Although he’d been provided uniforms because the defendants knew he’d be covered in fine dust, he hadn’t been given protective equipment like face masks.

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operating roomIn JSC Lake Highlands Operations, LP v. Miller, a Texas appellate court considered causation in a wrongful death case. The case arose when a woman was discharged from the hospital and admitted to JSC (the defendant’s facility) for rehabilitation. The following month, she received a phone call from her daughter, who thought she sounded strange. That evening, she told the staff that her dental bridge was missing, but the staff couldn’t find it.

The staff called the woman’s other daughter and told her that her mother was upset about losing the bridge. The daughter sent her husband to look for the bridge at the facility. He couldn’t locate it. The daughter spoke to her mother that evening and thought that her voice sounded raspy. The woman started coughing and showing chest congestion shortly thereafter. A doctor ordered a chest x-ray and Robitussin. The staff didn’t tell him her bridge was missing.

The chest x-ray said little more than that the heart was normal in size and configuration. The doctor was told of the results and ordered medication. The woman was found unresponsive in her room early in the morning. She was brought to the hospital but was unresponsive with seizure-like movements.

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hospitalBansal v. University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center is a wrongful death and survival action that arose out of the death of a stage IV colon cancer patient. The decedent was brought into the cancer center at the University of Texas with various symptoms, and he died a week later.

The decedent’s father and wife sued the center. They alleged that the center didn’t stabilize the decedent or relieve his pain after the oncologist determined chemotherapy hadn’t worked. The decedent died less than 24 hours after the center reduced its care. The plaintiffs claimed negligence, negligence per se, breach of contract, and a violation of the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA).

Under EMTALA, if someone comes to a hospital, and it determines that the person has an emergency medical condition, the hospital needs to provide further examination and treatment to stabilize the patient or transfer him to another facility with certain conditions. When a hospital participates in receiving Medicare payments, someone harmed by the hospital’s violation of EMTALA can sue the hospital and receive personal injury damages that are available under state law.

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refineryIn re CVR Energy, Inc. is a 2016 Texas wrongful death case in which the defendants tried to designate a former codefendant as a responsible third party. Two men, Billy Smith and Russell Mann, were killed in a refinery explosion while they were trying to restart the pilot light in an old boiler. They were employed by Wynnewood, a wholly-owned subsidiary of CVR refinery. The boiler was not equipped with a system that would allow it to be restarted from a remote site. Wynnewood had rejected proposals for a system of this sort, and according to the plaintiffs it had actual knowledge that the boiler had previously detonated and injured workers.

The family of the deceased sued Wynnewood and CVR. Among other things, they alleged that CVR as Wynnewood’s parent company had been negligent and grossly negligent by failing to install a boiler management system and failing to install controls on all heating equipment, among other things. They served requests for disclosure on CVR while Wynnewood was still in the lawsuit, asking CVR to name any responsible third parties. Under Rule 194, a party can obtain disclosure of identifying information for anyone that could be designated a responsible third party. However, CVR did not list its codefendant as a responsible third party in its response.

The plaintiffs had nonsuited (dismissed) Wynnewood Refining Company less than 60 days before trial, after the statute of limitations had run. The remaining defendants filed a motion to designate Wynnewood as a responsible third party, but the court denied this motion.

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riverIn Walker v. UME, Inc., a Texas Court of Appeals considered a case in which the trial court had entered summary judgment in favor of the defendants in a wrongful death case. The case arose in 2010, when two couples, the Walkers and the Johnsons, drove to Camp Huaco Springs for a weekend of camping and river rafting. They parked in two spots that they were assigned. On Saturday, they went on a canoe trip on the river and toured caverns. They went back to the campsite and went to bed in their RV campers. It was not raining at that time.

The couples hadn’t realized that there was a forecast of heavy rain. Cynthia Walker woke at around 6:00 a.m. There was thunder and lightning, and Terry Johnson (Cynthia’s brother) was screaming that they needed to leave. She realized that the river had risen overnight. The campers were floating. The two couples were swept down the river in the flood. Norman Walker died in the flood. His wife and the Johnsons were rescued but required medical care.

Cynthia Walker and others filed a lawsuit for premises liability and negligence against UME, Inc., which was doing business as Camp Huaco Springs, and WWGAF, which was doing business as Rockin ‘R River Rides and the Rivers brothers. The plaintiffs claimed WWGAF was a joint enterprise with UME and that it was the alter ego of the Rivers brothers. They also claimed that the defendants were aware that floods were likely at the campground, and they should have provided storm warnings and planned for flood awareness. They argued that the defendants should have used sirens to warn them and hired someone to evacuate guests and educate them about risks.

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teenager-1438118-e1462296370173In Durham v. Children’s Medical Center of Dallas, a Texas appellate court considered whether the Texas Constitution’s Open Courts Clause stopped the statute of limitations from running in a deceased 12-year-old’s survival and wrongful death claims against her health care providers.

The case arose from the medical care of the decedent, a 12-year-old girl born in 1993. In 2006, she was seriously hurt in Hawaii. Among other things, the Hawaii doctors found that she had a dilation of the ascending aorta that was not trauma-related. They recommended she follow up with a Texas cardiologist.

She was transferred to the Children’s Medical Center of Dallas with the help of her general pediatrician. However, the pediatrician didn’t see her after her transfer or before she died. She was treated by a Dr. Rupp and a nurse practitioner, and then she was discharged on the same day and told to come back for follow-up orthopedic surgery. That day, she was evaluated by Dr. Copley and then operated on. She stayed at the Children’s Medical Center for a few weeks, receiving care also from Dr. Holland and Dr. Kines, and then she was transferred again to another hospital, Scottish Rite. Two years later, at age 15, she became ill and died of aortic rupture.

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explosion-1379408In Oiltanking Houston, LP v. Delgado, an employee of an independent contractor hired to work on a pipe by Oiltanking died in an explosion. He was welding a flange on a 24-inch pipe used to transport crude oil. Hydrocarbon fumes ignited, and an explosion occurred, killing the employee and injuring two others.

The employee’s family sued Oiltanking, the owner of the premises and the hirer of the independent contractor, for wrongful death. The victims also sued for personal injuries.

At trial, testimony was provided about the procedures used, the aspects of the process that Oiltanking controlled versus the aspects controlled by the independent contractor, and the events that led up to the explosion. Under Chapter 33 of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Oiltanking designated the independent contractor as the responsible third party. However, the judge struck the designation when the evidence closed. Due to this, the jury was asked whether Oiltanking’s negligence was the legal cause of the explosion.

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farm-field-views-1200640In Painter v. Sandridge Energy, Inc., a Texas appellate court considered the death of two oil field employees and injuries to a third oil field employee. The workers were doing drilling on behalf of their employer, Amerimex. Amerimex was hired by Sandridge, which had a lease to drill wells at a ranch. The contract described Amerimex as an independent contractor but specified that the crew worked under Sandridge’s control, supervision, and direction. Sandridge was obligated to pay bonuses to the Amerimex employees so that they wouldn’t be hired away by other drillers. Sandridge had an on-site supervisor who stayed in a trailer.

The accident happened after the workers’ shift while they were driving to a bunkhouse 30-40 miles away owned by Amerimex. There was no requirement that the workers live in the bunkhouse or ride with their crew leader to and from the drilling site, but since the crew leader was the only one with a car, they did drive to and from the bunkhouse with him every day. The crew worked in shifts of seven days on and seven days off. While driving, the crew leader ran into the back of another car. Two of the employees were killed, and another was injured. Later, the crew leader testified that nobody at Sandridge gave him any driving instructions.

The decedents’ relatives and the surviving employee sued the other driver in the crash, Amerimex, and Sandridge, the owner of the oil and gas lease. Their petition alleged that Sandridge was responsible for the crew leader’s actions because it gave a financial incentive to the crew leader to transport them in his car. They alternatively alleged the crew leader was the agent of Sandridge due to a transportation bonus, or that he was a “borrowed servant” of Sandridge.

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