Articles Posted in Texas Supreme Court

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Bill Head, doing business as Bill Head Enterprises (Head), hired Petroleum Solutions, Inc. to manufacture and install an underground fuel system at the truck stop Head owned and operated. After a major diesel-fuel leak occurred, Respondents sued Petroleum Solutions for its damages. The trial rendered judgment in favor of Head and in favor of third-party defendant Titeflex, Inc., the alleged manufacturer of a component part incorporated into the fuel system, on Titeflex’s counterclaim against Petroleum Solutions for statutory indemnity. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the judgment as to Head, holding that the trial court abused its discretion in imposing the sanctions of charging the jury with a spoliation instruction and striking Petroleum Solutions’ statute-of-limitations defense, and the trial court’s abuse of discretion was harmful; and (2) affirmed the judgment as to Titeflex’s indemnity claim, holding that Titeflex was entitled to statutory indemnity from Petroleum Solutions. Remanded for further proceedings between Respondents and Petroleum Solutions. View "Petroleum Solutions, Inc. v. Head" on Justia Law

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Timothy Bostic died from mesothelioma, which can be caused by asbestos. Plaintiffs, Bostic’s family members, sued Georgia-Pacific Corporation and thirty-nine other defendants, alleging that Bostic had been exposed to asbestos as a child and teenager while using Georgia-Pacific drywall joint compound. A jury found Georgia-Pacific liable under negligence and marketing defect theories and awarded Plaintiffs $6.8 million in compensatory damages and $4.8 million in punitive damages. The court of appeals held that the causation evidence was legally insufficient and rendered a take-nothing judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the standard of substantial factor causation established in Borg-Warner Corp. v. Flores, an asbestosis case, applies to mesothelioma cases; (2) Plaintiffs were not required to prove that but for Bostic’s exposure to Georgia-Pacific’s asbestos-containing joint compound, Bostic would not have contracted mesothelioma; and (3) the evidence of causation was legally insufficient to sustain the verdict in this case. View "Bostic v. Georgia-Pacific Corp." on Justia Law

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Joseph Emmite worked as an insulator at Union Carbide Corporation for approximately forty years before he died in 2005. In 2007, the Emmites filed a wrongful death suit against Union Carbide. Union Carbide filed a motion to dismiss based on the Emmites alleged failure to timely serve a physician report that complied with Chapter 90 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code. The Multi-District Litigation pretrial court denied the motion. The court of appeals affirmed on interlocutory appeal, holding that the report filed by the Emmites did not satisfy the requirements of Chapter 90 but that Chapter 90 was unconstitutionally retroactive as applied to the Emmites’ claims. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and rendered judgment dismissing the Emmites’ suit, holding that a statutorily compliant report was not filed in this case and that Chapter 90, as applied to the Emmites, does not violate the Texas Constitution’s prohibition against retroactive laws. View "Union Carbide Corp. v. Synatzske" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was the Texas-resident exception to the forum non conveniens statute, which allows “plaintiffs” who are legal residents of Texas to bring a case in a Texas forum even if forum non conveniens would otherwise favor dismissal. Here an estate was sued in Texas regarding a Mexican decedent’s alleged responsibility for a car accident that occurred in Mexico. The estate in turn filed a third-party claim against Ford Motor Company. Wrongful-death beneficiaries, three of whom were legal residents of Texas, intervened in the lawsuit and also filed claims against Ford. Ford moved to dismiss under forum non conveniens, and the trial court denied the motion. Ford then moved for mandamus relief. The court of appeals denied relief, reasoning that, because at least one of the beneficiaries was a legal resident of Texas, the wrongful-death beneficiaries were “plaintiffs” that could take advantage of the Texas-resident exception to forum non conveniens. The Supreme Court denied mandamus relief, holding that the wrongful-death beneficiaries are distinct plaintiffs that can rely on the Texas-resident exception. View "In re Ford Motor Co." on Justia Law

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In this case, the Supreme Court articulated with greater clarity the standards governing whether an act of spoliation has occurred and the limits of a trial court’s discretion to impose certain remedies upon a finding of spoliation. In the underlying slip-and-fall premises-liability case, the defendant-premises owner retained a portion of surveillance video footage of the plaintiff’s fall but allowed additional footage to be automatically erased. The trial court submitted a spoliation instruction to the jury and allowed the jury to decide whether spoliation occurred. The jury rendered a verdict in favor of the plaintiff. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court abused its discretion in imposing the severe sanction of a spoliation instruction. Remanded for a new trial. View "Brookshire Bros., Ltd. v. Aldridge" on Justia Law

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A family from Mexico hired Jose Marciel, a “coyote,” to transport them to Houston or New Orleans. Marciel collected the family at a house in Texas, and, before dawn, arrived at the private Jones Ranch. An employee of the ranch operator stopped Maciel to ask why he had entered the property, after which Maciel fled at high speed. The vehicle rolled over, killing the family. Respondents, the deceased mother’s parents, sued the ranch’s operators and an employee (collectively, Petitioners), alleging wrongful death claims, including negligence and gross negligence. The trial court granted summary judgment for Petitioners. The court of appeals reversed in part. The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part, holding (1) the trial court erred in granting a traditional summary judgment based on the common law unlawful acts doctrine because the statutory comparative responsibility scheme abrogated this doctrine; (2) a land occupier owes only a duty to avoid injuring a trespasser wilfully, wantonly, or through gross negligence, and therefore, Respondents’ claim for simple negligence must fail as a matter of law; and (3) as to gross negligence, the trial court properly granted a no-evidence summary judgment motion because Respondents failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact. View "Boerjan v. Rodriguez" on Justia Law

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Jimmy Carty died in an accident during his employment for the state. The workers’ compensation carrier for state employees (carrier) began paying death benefits to Christy, Jimmy’s wife, and the couple’s three minor children. Christy, individually, as representative of her deceased husband’s estate, and as next friend of the couple’s children, brought suit against two defendants. The Cartys settled with the defendants. The district court subsequently calculated the carrier's reimbursement and apportioned the remainder of the settlement funds among Christy and the children “in the same ratio as they received death benefits.” The carrier appealed, challenging the apportionment. The court of appeals certified to the Supreme Court the question of “how a net recovery in excess of the amount of benefits paid by the workers’ compensation carrier should be apportioned among beneficiaries when multiple beneficiaries recover from a third-party tortfeasor.” The Supreme Court answered that when multiple beneficiaries recover compensation benefits through the same covered employee, the workers’ compensation carrier’s right to a third-party settlement is determined by treating the recovery as a single, collective recovery rather than separate recoveries by each beneficiary. View "State Office of Risk Mgmt. v. Carty" on Justia Law

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A corporation invited guests to a business retreat at the corporation’s expense at a lodge near the Gulf of Mexico. The lodge provided the guests with bay fishing from small boats. The corporation provided alcoholic beverages on the boats at the guests’ request. After one guest spent some time on the boat, returned to the lodge, and left to drive home, the guest struck a motorcycle ridden by the plaintiffs, who were severely injured. The plaintiffs sued the corporation, alleging that it negligently allowed the guest to drink excessively. Because Texas law does not recognize such social host liability, the plaintiffs asserted that federal maritime law applied in this case because, before the accident, the guest became intoxicated while on the fishing boat. The court of appeals concluded that maritime law applied. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, under the tests set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court in Jerome B. Grubart, Inc. v. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., the action did not fall within admiralty jurisdiction. View "Schlumberger Tech. Corp. v. Arthey" on Justia Law

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An owner contracted with an Architect to prepare plans and specifications for the construction of a light rail. A General Contractor was awarded the contract to construct the project. The Architect and General Contractor had no contract with each other. Because the Architect’s plans were full of errors, the General Contractor lost nearly $14 million on the project. The General Contractor filed a tort suit against the Architect, alleging negligent misrepresentation. The trial court rendered judgment for the General Contractor for $2.25 million plus interest. The Architect appealed, arguing that the economic loss rule barred the General Contractor’s claim. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the economic loss rule applied in this case to preclude the General Contractor from recovering delay damages from the Architect. View "LAN/STV v. Martin K. Eby Constr. Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a patron of the Graham Central Station nightclub, was assaulted by other patrons of the club. Plaintiff sued Graham Central Station, Inc. (GCS), the nightclub’s purported owner, alleging that GCS failed to provide adequate security to protect Plaintiff. The trial court rendered judgment for Plaintiff and awarded him $450,000 for pain and suffering and mental anguish. GCS appealed, arguing that Plaintiff sued the wrong party and that the evidence was insufficient to support the damages award. The court of appeals reduced Plaintiff’s damages to $249,000 and otherwise affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment and rendered judgment in GCS’s favor, holding that the evidence supporting a finding that GCS owned the nightclub was legally insufficient, and therefore, there was insufficient evidence that GCS owed a duty to Plaintiff. View "Graham Cent. Station, Inc. v. Pena" on Justia Law