Texas Court Rules On Admissibility of Intervening Cause Evidence

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Trucking Company Failed to Establish Causal Link Through Expert Testimony

An appellate court in JLG Trucking, LLC v. Lauren R. Garza ruled that the defendant failed to establish a causal link through expert testimony to support an intervening cause theory.

In July 2008 a tractor-trailer, operated by a JLG driver, struck the back of Lauren R. Garza’s pickup truck. Ms. Garza received treatment for neck and back pain and her orthopedic doctor diagnosed tense muscles based upon X-rays taken after the 18-wheeler accident. Mr. Garza was involved in a second collision three months later. She sought treatment for neck and head pain. Her doctor found no new injuries in X-rays taken after the second wreck.

Three weeks later, Ms. Garza returned to the doctor who treated her after the first wreck, now complaining of radiating arm and back pain. An MRI revealed two herniated discs. A year later, another MRI revealed two more herniated discs.

Trial Evidence 

At trial, the trucking company attempted to introduce evidence of the second car crash in support of its theory that some or all of Ms. Garza’s neck injuries resulted from the second collision. Ms. Garza filed a motion to exclude evidence of the second accident and informed the court that her doctor planned to testify that all of injuries were attributable to the first accident with the tractor-trailer. 

The trucking company argued that its expert witness planned to testify that Ms. Garza’s herniated discs were caused by a degenerative disease and her weight and that only one herniation could possibly have resulted from trauma. The trucking company did not proffer expert testimony linking the herniated discs to the second accident. The trial court ruled to exclude the evidence of the second accident. The jury awarded Ms. Garza $1.1 million dollars.

Appeal of Trial Court’s Ruling on Motion to Exclude

The trucking company appealed, in part based upon the trial court’s decision to exclude the evidence of the second crash. The Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio affirmed the trial court’s decision. 

The court found that the trucking company failed to establish a causal link between the second accident and Ms. Garza’s injuries. In fact, the trucking company argued that degenerative disc disease and weight caused Ms. Garza’s injuries, a theory they sought to support through expert testimony. Any reference to the second accident would, therefore, be irrelevant.

Intervening Causes as a Common Defense Tactic

Defendants and insurance companies often claim that an intervening event caused or exacerbated an injury. This common defense tactic is intended to relieve the defendant of negligence liability for the injuries it caused. For this reason, accident victims should meticulously document injuries resulting from a car crash.

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