Texas Court Affirms Judgment Awarding Car Accident Victims Minimal Damages, Refusing to Allow Insurance Coverage to Show Employment Relationship – Leimeister v. Cosmic Limousine and Transportation Company, Inc.

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An employer can be held financially liable for the torts of an employee. These include situations such as car accidents in which an employee’s negligence injures an innocent third party.

Although it would seem that the question of whether or not a particular person is an employee would be a fairly simple question, a would-be employer may dispute the employment relationship in an attempt to avoid a finding of responsibility under the doctrine of respondeat superior.

In the recent case of Leimeister v. Cosmic Limousine and Transportation Company, Inc., the plaintiffs were two men who were injured in an automobile collision allegedly caused by the negligence of the driver of a Lincoln Town Car owned by a limousine service. The men sued both the driver and the owner of the Town Car. The case was tried to a jury and resulted in a verdict in favor of the plaintiff against the driver in an amount substantially less than their claimed medical expenses. There was a “take nothing” verdict with respect to the owner of the vehicle.

Decision of the Appellate Court

The plaintiffs appealed, asserting several issues as grounds for reversal. They argued that the jury’s damages award was not supported by the evidence, the trial court should have allowed them to submit evidence concerning the insurance coverage of the Town Car, and the court should not have allowed unfairly prejudicial evidence of a previous medical condition of one of the plaintiffs.

The court rejected all of the plaintiffs’ arguments and affirmed the lower court’s entry of judgment on the jury’s verdict. Although the plaintiffs argued that the jury’s failure to award them damages for pain, mental anguish, or physical impairment was so against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence as to be clearly wrong and manifestly unjust, the court noted that the issue of whether one of the plaintiff suffered any physical injuries at all was hotly contested at trial, and the other plaintiff failed to identify anything other than a generalized complaint of “back injuries.”

Inasmuch as the jury’s verdict did not cover the full amount of medical expenses sought by the plaintiffs, the court noted that the plaintiffs’ medical proof at trial did establish causation. With regard to the plaintiffs’ argument concerning the trial court’s decision not to admit certain evidence of the defendants’ insurance arrangement at trial (which the plaintiffs claimed would have proven that the driver worked for the limousine company, and the Town Car belonged to it), the court found that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the probative value of the insurance evidence did not substantially outweigh the danger of unfair prejudice and confusion.

Talk to an East Texas Car Accident Lawyer

You deserve to know your legal rights if you’ve been in a car accident. The opposing party’s insurance adjuster is not the person to give you legal advice. To get an experienced East Texas car accident attorney on your side, call the Law Office of Earl Drott at (903) 531-9300 and ask for a free consultation. We assist clients in Tyler and the surrounding area, including all of East Texas.

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Texas Court Holds that Parents of Teen Driver Were Not Subject to Collateral Estoppel, But Take-Nothing Judgment Required New Trial – Richard v. Ayala