Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Texas
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court that VIA Metropolitan Transit, a governmental entity, breached its duty to act as a "very cautious, competent, and prudent person" would act under similar circumstances to a passenger who was injured while riding a VIA bus, holding that VIA was liable for the passenger's injuries in this case. Curtis Meck was injured while riding a VIA bus. Meck sued VIA, alleging that VIA was a common carrier and thus owed a duty to exercise a high degree of care. The jury rendered a verdict in favor of Meck. The court of appeals affirmed. On appeal, VIA argued (1) the high-degree-of-care duty did not apply in this case, and even if it did, the Texas Tort Claims Act does not waive governmental immunity against suits for breach of that duty; and (2) there was no evidence showing that VIA breached the high-degree-of-care duty to Meck. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) VIA is a common carrier; (2) the Tort Claims Act waived VIA's governmental immunity against Meck's claim; and (3) sufficient evidence supported the jury's finding that VIA breached that duty. View "Via Metropolitan Transit v. Meck" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the trial court's award of compensatory damages for Plaintiff on its defamation claim, holding that this was not a case of defamation but, rather, of business disparagement and that there was no evidence for either the award of general damages for Plaintiffs' reputation or the award of special damages connected to one of the allegedly defamatory statements. Plaintiff Valley Builders Supply, inc., sued its former business competitor, Defendant Innovative Block of South Texas, Ltd., alleging that Innovative's disparaging remarks about Valley's products contributed to its demise. Plaintiff submitted only its defamation claims to the jury, and the jury returned a verdict in Plaintiff's favor. The jury awarded general damages for Plaintiff's reputation injury and special damages for lost profits. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) disparaging the quality or condition of a business's product or service is not, standing alone, defamation per se; (2) no evidence existed to support an award of general damages for harm to Valley's reputation; and (3) the pecuniary loss for which special damages were sought were not cognizable as defamation. View "Innovative Block of South Texas, Ltd. v. Valley Builders Supply, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this dispute over the amount that air ambulance providers may recover from workers' compensation insurers, the Supreme Court held that Texas law requiring that private insurance companies reimburse the fair and reasonable medical expenses of injured workers is not preempted by a federal law deregulating aviation and that federal law does not require Texas to mandate reimbursement of more than a fair and reasonable amount for air ambulance services. PHI Air Medical, LLC, an air ambulance provider, argued that the federal Airline Deregulation Act (ADA) preempted the Texas Workers' Compensation Act's (TWCA) fee schedules and reimbursement standards. An administrative law judge held that PHI was entitled to reimbursement under the TWCA's standards. On judicial review, the trial court declared that the ADA did not preempt the TWCA's reimbursement provisions. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) because the price of PHI's service to injured workers is not significantly affected by a reasonableness standard for third-party reimbursement of those services, the ADA does not preempt that standard; and (2) the ADA does not require that Texas compel private insurers to reimburse the full charges billed for those services. View "Texas Mutual Insurance Co. v. PHI Air Medical, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals holding that the Texas Farm Animal Activity Act (the Act), Tex. Civ. Proc. & Rem. Code 87.001-87.005, does not apply to ranchers and ranch hands, holding that the court of appeals did not err. The Act limits liability for injury to "a participant in a farm animal activity or livestock show" that results from an "inherent risk" of those activities. Raul Zuniga worked full-time for Conway and Marlene Waak to work cattle on a ranch, landscape, and cut hay. Zuniga died after being trampled. Plaintiffs, Zuniga's family, sued the Waaks, on wrongful death and survival claims. The trial court granted summary judgment for the Waaks, concluding that the Act barred Plaintiffs' claims. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Zuniga was not "a participant in a farm animal activity" for whose injuries and death the Act limits liability. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Act does not cover ranchers and ranch hands and, therefore, did not shield the Waaks from liability for their negligence resulting in Zuniga's death. View "Waak v. Rodriguez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals on Plaintiff's survival action and rendered judgment for Defendant, holding that Plaintiff's claims were barred by the exclusive-remedy provision of the Texas Workers' Compensation Act because her evidence did not raise a fact issue under the intentional-injury exception to the Act's exclusive remedy. Plaintiff's husband, an employee of Defendant, a trucking and warehousing company, died when his rig ran off the highway and rolled over. Plaintiff filed suit, arguing that her husband fell asleep at the wheel due to the fatigue of being overworked. At issue was whether there was any evidence that Defendant believed the accident was substantially certain to result from Plaintiff's being overworked. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiff failed to raise a fact issue on the applicability of the intentional-injury exception to the exclusive-remedy provision of the Act. View "Mo-Vac Service Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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In this labor dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the order of the trial court granting Defendant's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), holding that Defendant did not carry its burden to establish that Plaintiff was its borrowed employee. Plaintiff sued Defendant for negligence after he was injured while working on an offshore drilling rig owned by Defendant. Although Plaintiff was not Defendant's employee, Defendant claimed that workers' compensation benefits were Plaintiff's sole remedy because Plaintiff was acting as its "borrowed employee" under the federal Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA). The jury found that Plaintiff was not Defendant's borrowed employee and awarded damages to Plaintiff. The trial court granted Defendant's JNOV motion, finding that the submission of the borrowed-employee question to the jury was improper and that the evidence supported Defendant's borrowed-employee defense. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the borrowed-employee inquiry can be a fact question for the jury. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court correctly determined that the borrowed-employee inquiry was a legal question for the court, not a fact question for the jury; but (2) Defendant did not establish that Plaintiff was its borrowed employee. View "W&T Offshore, Inc. v. Fredieu" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals holding that the University of the Incarnate Word does not have sovereign immunity when it is sued in connection with its law-enforcement activities, holding that neither the doctrine's purposes nor the operative legislation supports extending sovereign immunity to the University as a private entity. A deceased student's parents sued a University peace officer and the University after the officer shot the student following a traffic stop. The Supreme Court previously held that the University may appeal from an adverse ruling on its jurisdictional plea of governmental immunity but remanded to the court of appeals to consider whether the State's sovereign immunity extends to the University. The court of appeals declined to hold that the University possesses sovereign immunity. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) private universities do not operate as an arm of the State government through their police departments; and (2) extending sovereign immunity to the University does not comport with the doctrine's purposes, nor is it consistent with enabling legislation that extends immunity to peace officers engaged in law enforcement activities. View "University of the Incarnate Word v. Redus" on Justia Law

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In this case involving the collusive fraud of an insured and the driver of the other car involved in a car crash the Supreme Court adopted an exception to the eight-corners rule to determine the liability insurer's duty to defend, holding that courts may consider extrinsic evidence regarding whether the insured and a third party suing the insured colluded to make false representations of fact for the purpose of securing a defense and coverage. Osbaldo Hurtado Avalos and Antonio Hurtado (collectively, the Hurtados) sued Karla Guevara after the car accident and sought coverage from Loya Insurance Company (Insurer). Insurer furnished an attorney to defend Guevara, but when Insurer discovered that Guevara and the Hurtados had lied to secure coverage Insurer denied both a defense and coverage. The trial court rendered judgment against Guevara, who assigned to the Hurtados her rights against Insurer. Hurtados then filed suit against Insurer. The trial court granted summary judgment for Insurer. The court of appeals reversed, holding that Insurer had duty to defend under the eight-corners rule. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court (1) correctly considered extrinsic evidence regarding whether Guevara and the Hurtados colluded to secure a defense and coverage; and (2) correctly determined that the evidence conclusively showed collusive fraud. View "Loya Insurance Co. v. Avalos" on Justia Law

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In this interlocutory appeal involving application of the Texas Tort Claims Act's (TTCA) notice requirement the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court denying Jefferson County's jurisdictional plea, holding that the County had actual notice of the plaintiff's claim as a matter of law. Plaintiff sued Jefferson County under the Texas Tort Claims Act, Tex. Civ. Proc. & Rem. Code 101.101. The County asserted noncompliance with section 101.101, but the County's plea to the jurisdiction sought dismissal only on non-TTCA grounds, including noncompliance with a presentment requirement in Tex. Local Gov't Code 89.004(a). The trial court denied the County's plea on the basis that section 89.004's presentment requirement was not jurisdictional. The court of appeals reversed and dismissed the suit with prejudice for lack of statutory notice without considering the merits of the section 89.004 presentment issue. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals erred in ruling that Plaintiff failed to provide the notice section 101.101 requires to invoke the TTCA's sovereign immunity waiver. View "Reyes v. Jefferson County" on Justia Law

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In this workers' compensation case involving the death of a deputy sheriff who died in a vehicular accident while driving his assigned patrol car the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the summary judgment rendered by the trial court for the deputy's widow, holding that, at the time of the accident, the deputy was engaged in law enforcement activity within the course and scope of his employment. In granting summary judgment fort he deputy's widow the trial court concluded that the deputy was in the course and scope of his duties at the time of his death. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that because the accident occurred during the deputy's travel home from an extra-duty assignment with a private employer the deputy was not in the course and scope of his employment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the deputy was operating the marked patrol car with the county's permission and under its authority at the time of his death; and (2) therefore, summary judgment was properly granted in the widow's favor. View "Orozco v. County of El Paso" on Justia Law