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No Contributory Negligence in Texas Truck Accident Lawsuit

In Hospadales v. McCoy, the defendants appealed a judgment in a truck accident case that awarded the plaintiff damages in the amount of $292,000 for past pain and suffering, past medical expenses, and past lost earning capacity. Among other things, they argued the evidence was insufficient not only to show causation but also to support the jury’s damages award and finding that the plaintiff was not contributorily negligent.

The plaintiff worked to transport cars from one location to another location, using a 30-foot trailer pulled by a pickup. He and his wife were driving on I-45 to pick up a car when the defendant was driving an armored truck for his employer. The armored truck had data that included the speed and movements of the truck, as well as a system to record data related to the plaintiff’s operation of the vehicle.

A video from the armored truck showed the armored truck driver was driving behind the plaintiff in the same lane, then switched lanes, and went faster, trying to pass on the left of the plaintiff. The left side of the armored truck driver’s truck and trailer were directly on the white dividing line between lanes, although it didn’t cross.

The armored truck driver then went to the shoulder to try to move past the plaintiff’s trailer. The data from the armored truck showed that the vehicle in front of the armored truck activated its brake lights, and then so did the armored truck driver. The armored truck then moved into the plaintiff’s lane and hit the back of his pickup, causing the plaintiff’s truck and trailer to jackknife. It skidded 500 feet and stopped on the other side of the freeway.

The plaintiff went to the ER with a pain rate at 8 out of 10. He was diagnosed with back and neck pain and neck sprain. The ER discharged him to his home with medication and instructions to get follow-up care. Five days later, he got care at a rehab clinic and reported pain at 7 out of 10, and certain movements aggravated this pain. He saw other specialists over time about the pain, including a physical therapist and orthopedic surgeon.

McCoy filed suit against Hospadales and Hospadales’ employer, Loomis, asserting that Hospadales had negligently caused the auto accident. McCoy claimed that the accident had caused injuries to his back, neck, and knee. He sought damages for medical expenses, lost earning capacity, and pain and suffering.

At trial, the armored truck driver and its employer objected to admitting billing and medical records. However, they were admitted with the indication that the plaintiff would still need to prove causation to make them relevant. The employer argued at trial that the plaintiff caused the accident by bumping into the side of the armored truck. It also argued the injuries were preexisting. The plaintiff presented a mechanical engineer as an expert to prove that the employer caused the accident because its truck had come into the plaintiff’s lane. The expert testified that the data from the armored truck showed that the armored truck driver had engaged in an extreme braking maneuver, entering the plaintiff’s lane.

On appeal, the employer argued that the medical expert wasn’t qualified to render an opinion about whether the collision injured the plaintiff’s knee, neck, and back. The appellate court explained that the expert was a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and that orthopedic surgeons use their knowledge of physics to decide whether an injury could be caused by a particular event. The appellate court found his testimony reliable. It also explained that contributory negligence could be found if an injured person’s own negligence was the legal cause of his injuries.

The employer argued that certain data showed the tires of the plaintiff’s truck touched the white divider line. The employer asserted these photos were undisputed evidence that the trailer crossed the line. The appellate court weighed the evidence and concluded the jury’s finding of no contributory negligence was not so against the weight of the evidence as to be clearly wrong and was factually sufficient. The lower court’s judgment was affirmed.

If you are hurt in a truck accident, the experienced San Antonio attorneys at Carabin Shaw may be able to represent you and develop a sound strategy for handling your case. Call our office for more information at 1-800-862-1260.

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