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Court Determines Texas Plaintiff’s Workplace Injury Case Was Filed Too late

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.

Procedural 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.

The Latent Occupational Disease Rule in Texas

The defendant argued that the court of appeal incorrectly applied the latent occupation disease rule. Generally, Texas requires that personal injury lawsuits must be filed no later than two years after the cause of action occurs. Except in very narrow circumstances, injuries that develop after the initial legal injury are still deemed to have started on the original date. An exception is the latent occupational disease rule, which will toll accrual. This rule applies in situations in which a plaintiff’s symptoms do not manifest until a later date. To make this determination, a fact-finder would have to determine that a plaintiff could not have reasonably known that they had been injured.

The Texas Supreme Court’s Decision

In this case, the court found that the plaintiff clearly knew that he sustained burns when he came into contact with the toxic liquid, he sought medical treatment for the burns, and he knew that the defendant’s employee told him to clean up the spill. It was clear, the court held, that the plaintiff knew that his injury accrued that day. Furthermore, the plaintiff knew he was diagnosed with cancer four months later. The court held that the “latent disease” rule did not apply in this case because the plaintiff’s injuries were not latent, since he immediately knew that he was injured.

Have You Been Injured in a Texas Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently discovered an injury or illness following a workplace accident that was caused by another person’s negligence, you should contact the Texas workplace injury attorneys at Carabin Shaw. The attorneys at Carabin Shaw have decades of experience handling personal injury claims and can ensure that your case follows all of the necessary procedural requirements. If you are successful, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you sustained. Contact our San Antonio personal injury attorneys at 1-800-862-1260 for your free initial consultation.

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