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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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scaffoldingIn a recent Texas Supreme Court opinion, the Court considered a slip and fall case brought against a scaffolding contractor. The case arose when a pipefitter was scheduled to work overtime at a refinery. For the overtime shift, he worked with a different crew than usual, but all crewmembers were employees. The crew had the job of conducting routine maintenance. The pipefitter’s job was dangerous, and he and others were on a scaffold 15 feet above the ground and received fresh air through special equipment.

The pipefitter slipped on some plywood that wasn’t nailed down, and as a result, he fell up to his arms through a hole in the scaffold and hurt his neck. A contractor hired by the pipefitter’s employer built the scaffold. The contractor was required to follow OSHA regulations and other policies, and it needed to inspect about 3,000 scaffolds at the refinery before and during work shifts and use. The scaffold at issue was inspected a week before the work started, but the contractor’s reps weren’t there on the date of the fall, and they were not there during the three days before it.

The pipefitter sued the contractor, claiming improper construction of the scaffold and failure to warn. The contractor didn’t raise the issue of premises liability. The jury found the contractor negligent. It assigned 51% responsibility to the contractor and 49% to the pipefitter/plaintiff. The damages awarded were $178,000 in future medical expenses only.

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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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craneIn a recent Texas construction case, the court considered injuries arising from the collapse of a crane on a commercial construction site. The issue the appellate court examined was whether the plaintiff was prevented from obtaining damages under common law, due to the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act.

The case arose when the superintendent for the general contractor on a big construction project was injured in connection with the installation of pilings. To install pilings, the crew drilled a hole in the earth and then pumped grout into the hole. A steel rebar cage was dropped into the grout, which hardened around the cage to form a piling. Heavy machinery is used to build the piling. One of the subcontractors had adopted several policies to make sure the pilings were finished safely.

After a piling was completed, the crew had several cubic yards of grout left over, but the grout was insufficient to fully complete another hole. The superintendent of the subcontractor ordered the crew to start another piling. The foreman opposed this plan but agreed to follow it anyway. The superintendent of the subcontractor left, and grout was pumped into a new hole on the assumption that another shipment of grout would be arriving soon. That shipment was delayed, and the grout started to harden. When the grout finally arrived and was mixed into the old grout, the pressure under the old grout built up and caused the augur to shoot up. The cable backlashed, and the augur got stuck.

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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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fire

A recent Texas injury case arose when a woman was inadvertently shot by a guest hosted by the defendant. She sued the defendant under theories of negligent activity and premises liability. He moved for summary judgment, and the court granted the motion.

She appealed. First, she argued it was a mistake for the lower court to grant summary judgment on her premises liability theory, since a gun was brought to a place where guests were imbibing alcohol. She believed this was gross negligence. Second, she argued it was a mistake for the lower court to issue a summary judgment on her claim of negligent activity.

The defendant had hosted an evening barbecue, and he’d invited his cousins, among others. The plaintiff was dating one of the cousins, who invited her to the barbecue. One cousin came with a small child, who played with the host’s son inside. The guests were outside drinking beer, but none of them appeared to be drunk.

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diving boardIn a recent Texas appellate case, a city appealed the denial of its plea to the jurisdiction in a lawsuit involving an injured child. The case arose when a 13-year-old was swimming in the city’s public pool. A 17-year-old was on duty as a lifeguard. The pool had rules prohibiting horseplay, and the pool manager was aware of these rules.

While taking a break from his job, the lifeguard was double bouncing swimmers from the diving board, which meant that two people would stand on the diving board, and one would bounce while the other dove. The pool manager may have been aware of this practice but didn’t object unless the people involved were small children. On the day in question, she didn’t try to stop the lifeguard from double bouncing. When the 13-year-old joined in, he was hurt on his turn. He and the dividing board collided, causing his patella to snap, breaking a small bone, and dislocating his knee. He needed surgery and had to convalesce for six months.

The City argued that it had sovereign immunity from suit except as set forth under the Tort Claims Act. The law allows for a governmental unit to be liable for an injury legally caused by a wrongful act or omission of an employee acting within his scope of employment. There can also be governmental liability for misuse by employees of tangible personal property. However, landowner liability is limited when the landowner lets his land be used for recreation under Texas Civ. Practice & Remedies Code section 75.002.

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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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highwayIn a recent Texas appellate case, the representative of a decedent’s estate appealed a judgment in favor of the defendant. She argued that the court had abused its discretion by admitting the defendant’s written statement when it wasn’t properly notarized.

The case arose when a university student was driving on I-10 toward Houston. At around 5:30 in the morning, the defendant got on I-10 and began traveling west ahead of the student’s car. The student was traveling faster than the defendant and came up to his vehicle from behind. Later, the parties disagreed about what had happened, but the defendant’s car swerved, hit the concrete barrier, and rolled over, landing upside down. The cars didn’t collide, but the student was thrown from his car and died at the scene.

The decedent’s mother sued the defendant in a wrongful death and survival action, claiming negligence and gross negligence. The defendant was granted partial summary judgment with regard to the mother’s claims for punitive damages and damages under the survival statute.

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motorcycleA recent Texas appellate case arose from a truck accident. The defendant testified that, on the accident date, he was driving in the left lane. It was rush hour, and following behind two other vehicles, he was coming to a construction zone. Since he hadn’t considered the recommended following distance, there was no room for other cars and trucks to merge in front of him. An 18-wheeler in front of the two vehicles he was following stopped, and traffic immediately stopped. The traffic was tight, such that driving into the right lane wasn’t possible. The two vehicles turned onto a grassy median, and the defendant followed them.

Later, the truck driver would testify that what happened was so fast, he wasn’t sure why he left the road instead of simply stopping. He veered off because he assumed something was in front of them on the road, and he didn’t want to risk touching the back of the truck. He hit the brakes as he left the road, and he believed he had to do so to avoid a collision. He didn’t look left before following, and he was going at the same rate as the cars around him.

When he moved left, he did see the plaintiff’s motorcycle located about a car behind him in his mirror. He believed that the motorcycle was moving fast on the shoulder and that it was illegal to use the shoulder. The motorcyclist drove onto the grass and lost control of his bike. The bike hit the defendant’s truck. The defendant didn’t think the back of his truck had left the shoulder yet, and he claimed that the plaintiff wasn’t in his path when he went left.

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