A recent Texas truck accident decision arose out of a pickup truck accident. An equipment company had employed a man as a driver. While driving in the course and scope of his employment in November 2012, the man got into an accident. At trial, the jury received conflicting evidence about what happened to cause the accident and the plaintiff’s injuries.
The plaintiff was driving east in a pickup one morning. When he came to an intersection with a yellow light, he slowed down, and the light turned red. The intersection was east of a school zone, where the speed limit was 30 mph. After he stopped, the plaintiff saw the equipment company employee driving toward him from behind in another pickup. The plaintiff estimated the other driver was moving at 45 mph when he struck the plaintiff’s truck from behind.
The impact was hard, according to the plaintiff. The plaintiff experienced pain in his neck, shoulders, and back, and he testified that the force pulled his seat loose from the hinges fixing it in place. He also presented deposition testimony from the other driver, in which the other driver admitted his fault and testified that he believed the plaintiff was hurt. He also presented the employer’s representative’s deposition testimony. The deponent testified that the employee had written out a statement in which he admitted that in his opinion, he was at fault for the accident, and the deponent testified that the employer agreed.
The plaintiff also offered a videotape deposition excerpt of an officer’s testimony. The officer discussed his report and investigation of the crash. He explained that when he came to the accident scene, the trucks were still parked where they were at the time of the accident. He talked to the witnesses. From this, he concluded that the plaintiff was stopped at the intersection, and the other driver was at fault. In his report, he stated that the other driver was at fault and had failed to control speed and pay attention. He also testified that he’d seen failure to control speed and pay attention in other rear-end accidents, and therefore he considered those factors to be at work in this accident.
The defendant testified he was a delivery driver going from home to the office on the morning of the collision. He claimed that the accident was just after he drove through the school zone and that he’d been driving 30 mph and adhering to the speed limit. He saw the plaintiff’s truck at a yellow light, and just after that, he temporarily couldn’t see either the stopped plaintiff or the light. He assumed that the plaintiff would continue through the yellow light and didn’t realize that the plaintiff had stopped. He claimed that immediately after the collision, the plaintiff exited his truck and complained of back and neck pain, but the only damage he could see on the plaintiff’s truck was minor rear bumper damage.
Most of the trial testimony involved the plaintiff’s medical expenses. The jury found that the defendant was not negligent. The plaintiff moved for a new trial, and the court granted this motion, finding that the verdict cut against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence.
The employer of the defendant driver asked the appellate court whether granting the motion for a new trial was proper. The appellate court reviewed the record to determine whether the reason for granting a new trial was supported. It found that the lower court judge had considered the defendant driver’s statements to be conclusive on the issue of evidence and that the court had disregarded any other testimony from which the jury could have found no negligence. The appellate court noted that although the employee admitted his car hit the plaintiff’s pickup, he never admitted negligence. The simple fact of a rear-end accident didn’t itself prove negligence. It found that after looking at the whole record, the lower court had erred in granting a new trial. The jury had chosen to believe the employee’s version of what happened and decided he didn’t fail to use ordinary care.
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