On December 16, 2011, Sarah Patton filed suit against the Texas Department of Transportation in Jefferson County District Court on behalf of the estate of Pamela Freeman, who was killed in a car accident (Case No. B191-484). The complaint alleged that the Texas Department of Transportation acted negligently by allowing water to accumulate on the roadway because of inadequate drainage. According to the lawsuit, on February 12, 2011, Freeman was exiting Interstate 10 when her vehicle hydroplaned, causing her to leave the roadway and strike a sign and light pole. The accident eventually led to her death several months later.
Patton later amended her complaint, naming both Toyota and APAC-Texas as defendants, and alleging that a design flaw and water left on the road from construction work carried out caused the crash. On October 3, 2013, APAC-Texas filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Freeman’s BAC exceeded the legal limit at the time of accident. The motion also contended that investigating officers at the scene of the accident confirmed that there was no water left on the road from construction and, instead, the accident had resulted from Freeman’s speeding. Based on these facts, APAC argued that it should be dismissed from the case since there was no evidence to support Patton’s claim that APAC was negligent when performing construction work on the road in question. Then, on November 2, 2013, Toyota followed APAC’s lead and asserted that Patton’s amended complaint failed to allege or identify the specific product defect theories or any defective components on Freeman’s vehicle. Ultimately, on November 6, 2013, Patton filed a notice stating that she non-suited all her claims against all defendants, meaning that she released all of the defendants from liability.
As mentioned previously on this blog, unfortunately, in 2012 Texas had the largest increased in fatalities of any state in the country, with an 11% increase in overall traffic fatalities and a 6.6% increase in drunk driving deaths. More specifically, according to the Texas Department of Transportation, there were 1,099 people killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes where a driver was under the influence of alcohol, which accounts for 32.3% of the total number of people killed in motor vehicle crashes. At the same time, there were only five fatalities where defective vehicle products were a contributing factor, and no reported fatalities due to standing water on the road.
The state of Texas has adopted the comparative negligence rules. This means that a plaintiff’s damage award is reduced based on plaintiff’s proportion of fault for the accident. As an example, if a plaintiff is found to be 30% at fault for the accident, he or she will only collect 70% of the damages awarded. However, in Texas, if the plaintiff is found to be more than 50% at fault, he or she will not recover any damages. In this case, since both Toyota and APAC-Texas had strong arguments that they were not negligent, and there was evidence that the deceased was driving under the influence, plaintiff ultimately decided to release all defendants from liability, likely based on the fact that there was a high possibility the deceased would be found more than 50% at fault after presentation of the evidence.
This case makes clear that driving while intoxicated can prevent you from obtaining damages even if you, or a loved one, were injured or killed in the car accident. If you or someone you know has been harmed in an accident involving someone driving under the influence, contact our San Antonio personal injury attorneys today at 1-800-862-1260. We can provide you with legal advice on an auto accident, the damages or injuries caused by an accident or the causes or liability issues or insurance questions.
Texas Motor Vehicle Traffic Crash Highlights, Calendar Year 2012,Texas Department of Transportation
Crash Contributing Factors – 2012, Texas Department of Transportation
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Issues Updated Safety Ratings and Releases 2012 Traffic Fatality Statistics Revealing Texas as State With Highest Increase in Traffic Fatalities, December 6, 2013, Texas Injury Lawyers Blog