The Texas Court of Appeals for the Sixth District that sits in Texarkana has ruled on a case that reminded me of a similar accident case I successfully settled the day before trial a few years ago.
The question on appeal was whether a new trial should be granted where occupants of one vehicle were injured after crashing into cargo dropped by an 18 wheeler.
In In re Baker Windham and Walker were riding in a pickup truck on a dark stormy night when they crashed into rolled bales of hay that had fallen out of Baker’s flatbed trailer onto the highway. They were seriously injured and filed a lawsuit against Baker and his employer. After hearing the evidence, which included Baker’s testimony of the actions he took in securing the bales of hay prior to the accident, the jury found that for the truck driver and held that his negligence was not the proximate cause of the collision. The plaintiffs filed motions to set aside the verdict, for a mistrial, and for a new trial, claiming that the jury’s finding was contrary to the weight of the evidence. The trial court granted their motions and the defendants appealed.
The court of appeals looked at whether Windham and Walker met their burden of proving whether Baker had breached his duty of reasonable behavior by failing to secure the bails of hay before they fell off of his truck and whether the defendant drivers’ actions were the proximate cause of the collision. Having found that the burden was met, the Court then looked at whether the trial court abused its discretion in granting a new trial.
The court found that the trial court had abused its discretion by improperly intruding upon the jury’s province. The trial court used the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur to infer that negligence occurred despite the lack of evidence because the accident could not have happened without Baker acting negligent. Yet the Texas Supreme Court had previously noted that even when a judge uses res ipsa loquitur, the jury still has a question of fact to answer. Here, the jury could have still found that the accident occurred without negligence, such as if the hay shifted due to heavy rain after Baker last checked the load. Baker had testified that he had driven loads for 30 years without a similar accident occurring, that he checked his load periodically, and that he made sure the straps were as tight as possible. The court directed the trial court to set aside its order granting a new trial and to enter judgment in favor of Baker. It is not clear whether the plaintiffs will appeal to the Texas Supreme Court.
I previously represented a woman who had to have a major three level fusion in her neck after she had to slam on her brakes to avoid a large cardboard box that had blown or been dropped on to Loop 820 and she was rear ended by a SUV following her. The defendant’s attorney filed a motion to join the person who had dropped the box and to dismiss the case. I was successful in defeating several pre-trial motions to dismiss my case and obtain a large recovery of damages for my client.
I have been representing Texans injured in accidents for more than 33 years. Located in Fort Worth and with offices throughout the Metroplex and in Houston, I only represent people who have been injured by accidents involving cars, trucks, 18 wheelers, bicycles and motorcycles. If you want an experienced Board Certified Fort Worth personal injury attorney who will provide you with compassionate legal representation, contact my office today to schedule a free initial consultation.