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Texas Court Addresses Assumption of Control in Negligence Lawsuit Against Employer

CS-San-Antonio-9-300x300Recently, a Texas district court issued an opinion in a lawsuit stemming from injuries a man suffered during a workplace altercation. According to the record, the plaintiff worked in a storeroom of a clothing store that is operated by a larger company. The plaintiff and another employee became involved in a verbal altercation requiring intervention from a supervisor. The supervisor presented the parties with the options to either quit their jobs, change shifts, or continue working together-they chose to continue working together. About a week after the verbal altercation, the men became involved in another argument, and the employee punched the plaintiff. Both of the men were terminated from their positions. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the parent company, arguing that they were liable for his injuries because of negligent hiring, negligent training, negligent supervision, retention, and monitoring. A jury found in favor of the plaintiff, and the company appealed.

Among other issues, the company argued that they were not liable because the men were not employees of the parent company, but rather of a subsidiary. The company argued that the plaintiff did not establish that the defendant had an employment relationship with any of the parties involved, or that they controlled the subsidiary’s safety policies. Therefore, the jury’s finding was not supported by the evidence.

Under Texas laws, the court will sustain a sufficiency of the evidence challenge if there is a complete absence of an essential fact, the trial court is barred by the law to give weight to the evidence offered to prove a vital fact, if the preferred evidence is no more than a “mere scintilla,” or the evidence established the opposite of a vital fact. Evidence rises to a sufficient level if it would allow fair-minded people to differ in their conclusions. Further, if the evidence does not create more than a slight suspicion, it is not sufficient.

Moreover, corporations are generally liable for employees working within the scope of their employment. However, corporations are not typically responsible for the negligence of an individual who is not an employee, unless the parent corporation assumes control over the subsidiary’s safety policies.

In this case, the court evaluated the company’s handbook and testimony from the subsidiary’s manager. Ultimately, the court found that the evidence did not differentiate who is employed by whom or which entity employed the workers in this case. Next, the court reviewed whether the parent company had sufficient control of the subsidiary. To meet the evidentiary requirement of the control element, the plaintiff must prove that the corporation assumed a responsibility to ensure the employees’ safety and directly participated in the actions causing the victim’s injuries. Again, the court found that the plaintiff’s evidence did not establish that the parent company had control. Ultimately, the court found that the plaintiff failed to present legally sufficient evidence that the parent company was liable.

Have You Suffered Injuries Because of the Negligence of Another?

If you or someone you love has suffered injuries in an accident caused by another’s negligence, contact the personal injury attorneys at Carabin Shaw. The attorneys at our office have extensive successful experience handling complex personal injury lawsuits against at-fault individuals, companies, and governmental agencies. We handle Texas motor vehicle accidents, slip and falls, injuries caused by defective products, medical malpractice, and nursing home abuse and neglect. Over the years, we have recovered significant amounts of compensation on behalf of our clients and look forward to seeing how we can help you. Contact our office at 800-862-1260, to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney at our law firm.

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