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Earlier this month, a lawsuit was filed against The Weather Channel based on a 2017 Texas car accident that claimed the lives of all three men involved. According to a recent news report, the lawsuit seeks $125 million for the wrongful death of the accident victim, and was filed against The Weather Channel because the accident was allegedly caused by two of its employees.

Back in March of 2017, two storm chasers were filming footage for The Weather Channel show, “Storm Wranglers.” According to the plaintiff’s complaint, their vehicle ran a stop sign and collided with the vehicle of a 25-year-old storm spotter who was employed by the National Weather Service. At the time of the accident, it is claimed that the men were traveling at approximately 70 miles per hour. The force from the crash propelled the satellite equipment atop one of the vehicles over a five-foot fence, ultimately landing 150 feet away from the scene of the accident. All three men died as a result of the collision.

Family members of the deceased accident victim filed a case against The Weather Channel, claiming that the two men had a “well-documented history of dangerous behavior behind the wheel” that the Channel ignored and may have even encouraged. Family members claimed that The Weather Channel had knowledge of the men’s poor driving habits and encouraged them to run stop signs and violate other traffic laws to obtain exciting footage that could be included in the show. The complaint further alleges that The Weather Channel had ample opportunity to replace the men with “competent, law-abiding” drivers, but failed to do so.

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As the second largest state in the U.S., Texas has a diverse range of terrain making it a great state for recreationalists. However, in Texas, approximately 95% of all the land is privately owned and landowners are not required to allow others on their land. To encourage landowners to open up their property for the public’s recreational use, Texas lawmakers have passed a recreational use statute (RUS). Texas recreationalists should be aware of the state’s RUS, as it can limit an accident victim’s ability to recover for their injuries through a Texas premises liability lawsuit, even if their injuries were the result of a landowner’s negligence.

Texas Statutes Chapter 75 discusses limitations on a landowner’s liability. Collectively, these statutes constitute the Texas RUS. Specific to this discussion, sections 75.002 and 75.003 pertain to the private, non-agricultural land that is used for recreational purposes. The RUS defines recreational activity broadly, including hunting, fishing, swimming, boating, camping, hiking, exploring, bicycling, dog-walking, and “pleasure driving”, among other activities.

Under the Texas RUS, a landowner who gives permission for others to enter their property for recreational purposes does not assure that the property is safe and does not owe their guest any greater duty than they would owe to a trespasser. Similarly, the landowner cannot be held liable for any injuries that are caused by the guest while on their property.

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While any Texas car accident lawsuit has the potential to become very complicated, as a general rule the more parties that are involved in an accident, the more complex a subsequent personal injury case will be. In Texas, courts apply several doctrines to determine which accident victims are entitled to compensation for their injuries and the amount of compensation each at-fault party owes the plaintiff.

Under Texas’ comparative negligence law, an accident victim who is less than 51% at fault for causing the accident that resulted in their injuries can pursue claims for compensation against the other parties involved in the crash. After the case, the jury will assign each party, including the plaintiff, a percentage of fault. Under Section 33.013 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, each defendant is then liable only for their percentage of fault. Thus, a plaintiff may be required to recover several judgments to obtain full compensation for their injuries.

If, however, a defendant is more than 50% at fault, the defendant is considered jointly and severally liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. This means that, while a defendant who is more than 50% at fault is technically only responsible for their percentage of fault, at the plaintiff’s option, the defendant can be required to pay the full damages amount to the plaintiff. Then, the defendant would be able to pursue a claim against those defendants with a lesser percentage of fault. When joint-and-several liability applies, the burden of recovering on smaller judgments is shifted onto the defendant who is primarily responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries.

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The Texas Supreme Court recently issued an opinion in a Texas personal injury case involving the death of a 19-year-old pregnant woman who fell into a dam near Fort Worth. According to the court’s opinion, the woman tried to walk across the dam when she slipped and fell into the river and drowned. She was five months pregnant at the time. The woman’s parents sued the local water district, which built and maintained the dam, alleging that it was at fault for their daughter’s death. The water district, which is considered a governmental entity, claimed that it was immune from suit for that reason. The plaintiffs claimed that the district was not immune from suit because the claim fell under a specified waiver of immunity.

Governmental immunity generally protects political subdivisions of the state, including cities and counties. However, there are exceptions to the general rule of immunity. For example, the state is not immune for claims involving “use of publicly owned automobiles, premises defects, and injuries arising out of conditions or use of property.” Under section 101.056 of the Texas Tort Claims Act, there is an exception to waivers of immunity if the claim is based on:

(1) the failure of a governmental unit to perform an act that the unit is not required by law to perform; or

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Judges who preside over Texas personal injury cases have an immense amount of influence over the outcome of the case. While the judge is not usually the one who makes the ultimate determination regarding a defendant’s liability (that issue is reserved for the jury), judges make all pre-trial and evidentiary rulings that come up throughout the trial. Thus, it has been said that a judge creates the “landscape” in which a case is brought.

Of course, judges are elected officials who, at the end of the day, are human and can make mistakes. For this reason, the Texas court system allows a party who believes that a judge made a legal error during the proceedings to appeal the issue to a higher court. Typically, appellate courts will only review the issues that are raised on appeal, and will only hear claims that comply with the Texas Rules of Appellate Procedure.

Appellate courts are designed to resolve conflicts between trial courts and to correct incorrect applications of the law. For example, if a court in Dallas is resolving an issue of state law differently than a court in San Antonio, an appellate court may decide to hear a case that presents the issue to clarify how the law should be interpreted. Also, appellate courts can reverse incorrect rulings that were made by trial judges.

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Recently, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a Texas car accident case illustrating the importance of expert testimony. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss whether a subsequent report issued by the plaintiff’s expert was admissible. Ultimately, the court concluded that the report was properly excluded, and affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendant manufacturer.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was killed in a single-vehicle car accident after his Jeep Wrangler swerved off the road and into a concrete pillar. There was no known cause for the accident, and investigators noticed that the grass under the Jeep was charred, as though there had been a fire. A few days after the crash, the manufacturer issued a recall of the transmission oil controller (TOC). Evidently, a defective TOC could result in the undercarriage of a vehicle catching fire.

The plaintiff’s surviving loved ones filed a Texas product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer. In support of their claim, they consulted with an expert. However, after reviewing the data, the expert could not definitively state that the recall defect caused the fire. After learning of the expert’s opinion, the plaintiffs moved for additional discovery related to Jeep fires that were caused by other defects. After reviewing this data, the plaintiff’s expert submitted an amended report, concluding that a defective TOC caused the fire.

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The Texas Supreme Court recently issued a decision concerning what plaintiffs must prove in order to establish a claim of medical negligence in emergency medical care settings.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, a baby was born at a hospital in Denton, Texas. The mother was induced at 39 weeks, and while the baby was being born, the obstetrician used forceps to deliver the baby’s head, but the baby’s shoulder became stuck. The doctor tried different maneuvers but eventually reached into the birth canal and pulled on the baby’s arm, dislodging his shoulder. The baby was delivered, but suffered injuries to the nerves running through his shoulder.

The plaintiffs filed a medical malpractice claim against the doctor alleging that he negligently maneuvered the baby’s body while he was being born, resulting in the baby’s shoulder becoming dislodged. The doctor argued that a provision of emergency medical care applied in this case, and that the plaintiffs had to prove he acted with willful and wanton negligence.

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When a Texas employee is injured on the job, the injured employee can pursue temporary or permanent benefits under the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act. Workers’ compensation benefits can provide an injured employee benefits to cover their medical expenses as well as a portion of their income. Notably, workers’ compensation claimants do not need to establish that their employer was negligent to obtain benefits. However, workers’ compensation claimants are not eligible for compensation based on emotional pain and suffering.

Another option an injured employee has is to file a Texas personal injury lawsuit. Unlike workers’ compensation claims, successful plaintiffs in Texas personal injury lawsuits can obtain compensation for emotional damages. However, because a workers’ compensation claim is generally an injured employee’s only remedy against their employer, a personal injury case will typically only be available if a third party’s negligence caused the accident.

That being said, lawmakers have determined that workers in specific industries should be able to pursue personal injury claims against their employers. For example, the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) allows railroad workers to pursue claims for compensation against their employers. Similarly, the Jones Act permits seamen to file a personal injury case against their employer. However, to recover under FELA or the Jones Act, a worker must show that the employer was negligent. A recent federal appellate case discusses an employee’s case brought under the Jones Act.

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When someone is involved in a serious Texas workplace accident, they may have several options when it comes to seeking compensation for their injuries. In general, a Texas employee who is injured on the job can pursue a Texas workers’ compensation claim. Under the Texas workers’ compensation program, an injured employee can pursue a claim for workers’ compensation regardless of fault. However, the major problem with workers’ compensation claims is that the type and amount of damages available are limited.

Generally speaking, if an employer has obtained workers’ compensation insurance, then a workers’ compensation claim is an injured employee’s only recourse against an employer. However, unlike most states, Texas does not require employers to obtain workers’ compensation insurance. If an employer is a “non-subscriber” to the workers’ compensation program, a plaintiff can pursue a traditional negligence action against the employee. In these situations, an employee’s damages will not be limited as they would in a workers’ compensation case.

As mentioned above, Texas workers’ compensation cases can proceed absent a finding of fault against an employer (even if the employee was partly responsible for their own injuries). However, some workplace accidents are the result of another party’s negligent conduct. In these situations, an injured employee may be able to pursue a Texas third-party liability claim against the negligent party.

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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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