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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Texas truck accident case requiring the court to determine if the lower court properly excluded evidence of the plaintiff’s mental health diagnoses. Ultimately, the court concluded that such evidence was relevant and that the probative value of the evidence outweighed any potential prejudice caused by the admission of the evidence. Thus, the court reversed the jury’s verdict.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s recitation of the facts, a pedestrian was killed after she was run over by a semi-truck that was in the process of making a turn. Evidently, the truck was negotiating a tight corner that was complicated by the presence of another motorist on the road. As the truck driver made the turn, the side of the truck clipped the pedestrian, knocking her to the ground. The truck’s rear tires then ran over the pedestrian, killing her instantly.

The pedestrian’s family members filed a Texas wrongful death lawsuit against the driver and his employer. As a part of their defense, the defendants intended on introducing evidence that the pedestrian suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and had alcohol, cocaine, and oxycodone in her blood at the time of her death. The plaintiffs objected to the admission of the evidence and the trial court precluded its admission, finding that it was relevant but that any probative value was outweighed by potential prejudice. The defendants appealed.

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In a recent case, a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit rejected a Texas personal injury claim against Apple. The plaintiff alleged that a driver’s “neurobiological response” to a text message notification caused a fatal car crash.

According to the facts alleged in the plaintiff’s complaint, a text message came in that the at-fault driver looked at while driving on the highway. When the driver received the text message, she looked down at her phone to read the message. In doing so, she averted her eyes from the road. When she looked back up at the road, it was too late, and her car crashed into another car, which had two adults and a child inside. The two adults were killed and the child was seriously injured.

The victims’ family sued Apple, the manufacturer of the phone, claiming that Apple was liable under the theories of negligence and products liability. The plaintiffs claimed that, although Apple was aware of the dangers of texting while driving and had obtained a patent for a lock-out mechanism for texting while driving, the company did not put the lock-out mechanism in any version of the at-fault driver’s phone. The plaintiffs claimed that Apple was liable because the receiving of text messages triggers “an unconscious and automatic, neurobiological compulsion to engage in texting behavior.” The plaintiffs also claimed that Apple failed to warn customers about the dangers of texting while driving. Apple filed a motion to dismiss, and a federal court granted the motion. The plaintiffs then appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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In a medical malpractice case before the Supreme Court of Texas, the court had to decide whether an expert’s testimony was conclusory and if it could support a decision in the plaintiff’s favor. Ultimately, the court concluded that the expert’s opinion was not conclusory because it was supported by the physical evidence as well as the expert’s own experience in the field.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, a father took his children out, and in the parking of a gas station, he became disoriented and his speech was slurred. An ambulance took him to a Texas hospital where he was evaluated by an emergency room physician. He reported that he’d had three similar episodes in the past few months, but that this episode was more severe. After undergoing an MRI, doctors determined that the father had compensated obstructive hydrocephalus due to aqueductal stenosis, and that he would need a shunt inserted in his brain the following day. Doctors referred him to a neurosurgeon to determine how to proceed. The father left the hospital and saw the neurosurgeon the following day.

Evidently, the neurosurgeon saw the father the following day, but instead of inserting a shunt, the neurosurgeon put a ventricular drain in his brain to monitor his intracranial pressure. Less than two weeks later, the father had another episode, and informed the neurologist at the hospital. The neurologist performed additional tests, which showed that the aqueductal stenosis had worsened. The neurologist did not relay the information to the neurosurgeon. The plaintiff died later that year due to the aqueductal stenosis.

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In Texas, drunk driving is taken seriously by lawmakers, police, and prosecutors. Yet, despite the decades-long efforts of government agencies and non-profit organizations, drunk driving is still a major problem in Texas. Indeed, each year there are approximately 17,000 Texas DUI accidents, claiming the lives of nearly 1,000 Texans annually.

While a Texas drunk driver is subject to criminal penalties, they can also be held accountable for their actions through a Texas personal injury lawsuit. To establish that a drunk driver is responsible for an accident victim’s injuries, the accident victim must be able to prove the four elements of a Texas negligence lawsuit: duty, breach, causation, and damages.

Typically, in a lawsuit arising from a Texas drunk driving accident, the elements of duty and breach are often established through the doctrine of negligence per se. Negligence per se is, in essence, a shortcut that lawmakers allow certain accident victims to take when developing their claim. When the elements of negligence per se are met, the defendant is found to have been legally negligent. This satisfies both the duty and breach elements of a negligence claim.

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Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a Texas truck accident requiring the court to determine if the jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff should be reversed based on inadmissible expert testimony from a state trooper. Ultimately, the court concluded that the trial court correctly admitted the trooper’s testimony; however, the court remanded the case on an unrelated issue so that the plaintiff’s damages could be recalculated.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was a truck driver who was involved in a serious Texas truck accident when a truck traveling in the opposite direction crossed over the center median and crashed head-on into the plaintiff’s truck. The collision caused a massive explosion, resulting in the plaintiff being severely burned. The driver of the out-of-control truck died in the accident. The plaintiff proceeded with a personal injury claim against the company that hired the truck driver to transport the load he was carrying at the time of the accident.

At trial, the plaintiff presented testimony from the state trooper who first responded to the scene. Apparently, the trooper was behind the at-fault truck driver and saw the explosion from a distance. The trooper testified regarding his on-scene investigation immediately after the accident. Among the issues the trooper mentioned were the road conditions, the fact that the truck driver was using a cell phone at the time of the crash, and his belief that the truck had hydroplaned causing the driver to lose control. The trooper could not estimate how much the truck weighed or how fast it was traveling.

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Last month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Texas wrongful death case involving allegations of medical malpractice. The case required the court to determine if the lower court correctly concluded that the testimony of the plaintiff’s expert was conclusory, and thus “no evidence.” Ultimately, the court found that each of the expert’s opinions was supported either by his experience or by his review of medical literature.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff had an episode where he became disoriented and confused while in a gas station parking lot. The plaintiff was taken to the hospital, where a series of tests were performed. The plaintiff was then referred to a neurologist.

The neurologist reviewed the tests and believed that the plaintiff suffered from aqueductal stenosis, which can lead to hydrocephalus (a build-up of fluid in the brain). The neurologist determined that a shunt should be placed in the plaintiff’s brain, and referred the plaintiff to a neurosurgeon.

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While some Texas car accidents are caused exclusively by the negligence of one party, many accidents are the result of shared responsibility. In these cases, Texas courts use the state’s proportionate liability statute to determine which accident victims can pursue a claim against the other parties involved in the accident.  Specifically, the law allows for anyone involved in a Texas multi-vehicle accident to seek compensation for the injuries they sustained, provided that their percentage of fault is determined to be 50% or less.

Typically, a jury will determine a party’s percentage of fault at the court’s instruction. One question that frequently arises in many Texas car accidents is whether the jury can consider a motorist’s failure to wear a seatbelt as a factor in determining a party’s potential negligence.

Seatbelt Non-Use Evidence

When it comes to seatbelt non-use evidence, courts typically take one of three different approaches. Some courts can allow seatbelt non-use evidence to be considered by the jury when determining a motorist’s percentage of fault. Other courts only allow a plaintiff’s failure to wear a seatbelt during the damages phase of the trial, after liability has been established. And finally, some courts prohibit seatbelt non-use evidence altogether.

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Last month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Texas premises liability case discussing when a landowner can be held liable for injuries caused on their property by accumulations of snow or ice. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff failed to establish that her slip-and-fall accident was the result of an “unnatural” accumulation, and thus the court affirmed the lower court’s granting of summary judgment in favor of the defense.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured when she fell on a patch of ice as she was walking into a shopping mall. Evidently, the plaintiff arrived at the mall two days after a winter storm had left several inches of snow on the ground. The plaintiff parked her car in the mall parking lot, exited her vehicle, and began to approach the entrance. As the plaintiff was walking up a sloped pedestrian walkway, she fell and landed on a patch of ice. After her fall, the plaintiff noticed that there was a grainy substance, either sand or deicer, on the ground. The plaintiff also saw that there was a pile of snow at the top of the sloped ramp.

The mall filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that under Texas law a landowner is not liable for injuries caused by the natural accumulation of snow on their property. The plaintiff claimed that by piling the snow at the top of the ramp and by applying sand or a deicer, what may have been initially a natural accumulation of snow became unnatural.

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Although dogs are considered man’s best friend, Texas dog bite cases are more common than many people realize. To be sure, the vast majority of dogs are friendly, but some dogs are trained by their owners to be vicious guard dogs. In other situations, owners abuse or neglect their animals, resulting in the animal developing anti-social behavior towards humans. Regardless of the cause, sometimes dogs but people, often without provocation.

Unlike other states, Texas does not have a specific dog-bite statute. Instead, courts apply general principles of negligence when reviewing most Texas dog bite claims. However, there are situations where an animal owner will be subject to strict liability.

Texas Dog Bite Cases Brought under the Theory of Negligence

Most Texas dog bite cases alleged that the owner was negligent in some manner, and that the owner’s negligence resulted in their dog biting the accident victim. To establish liability against a dog owner in a negligence claim, the victim must be able to show that the owner either failed to use reasonable care to control the animal or prevent it from biting another person. For example, letting a dog run around in a yard without a fence may be a situation where the dog’s owner failed to use reasonable care.

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One of the first considerations in a Texas car accident case is which of the parties involved should be named as defendants. This is an important decision for several reasons. First, failing to name a potentially liable party could result in the named defendants shifting blame onto the unnamed party. Second, given the low insurance requirements in Texas, an accident victim can very easily sustain more serious injuries than can be recovered under a single insurance policy.

Of course, only parties that were potentially negligent can be named in a Texas personal injury case. However, it is a common misconception that the at-fault driver is the only negligent party. In many cases, an at-fault driver was not the owner of the vehicle involved in the accident and was permitted to use the vehicle by a friend, family member, or employer. This is where the doctrine of negligent entrustment comes in.

The doctrine of negligent entrustment allows an injury victim to hold the owner of a vehicle liable for negligently allowing another person to use the vehicle. Under Texas case law, a plaintiff must be able to establish:

  • The owner entrusted the vehicle to the driver;
  • The driver was unlicensed, reckless, or incompetent;
  • The owner knew the driver was unlicensed, reckless, or incompetent;
  • The driver was negligent; and
  • The driver’s negligence caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

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