Texas Court Holds that Trucker’s Employer is Possible “Responsible Third Party” in Product Liability Suit Arising from Truck Braking System – In re Volvo Group North America

truck on overpass

Truck accidents hurt or kill thousands of motorists, passengers, and pedestrians each year. Sometimes, even truckers themselves perish in these accidents.

A recent case illustrates the challenges that arose when a deceased trucker’s family attempted to seek compensation for their loved one’s wrongful death in a lawsuit that claimed a particular braking system caused the trucker to lose control and plunge off an overpass.

Facts of the Case

In the recent case of In re Volvo Group North America, LLC, the plaintiffs were members of the family of a professional truck driver who died in a truck accident in 2013. According to the plaintiffs’ allegations, a motorist who was traveling in front of the truck driver fell asleep while traveling along I-35. The motorist’s vehicle struck a guardrail and rolled over into the median. The truck driver, who was operating a tractor trailer manufactured by the defendant, Volvo, swerved to avoid the accident and lost control of the truck. The tractor trailer then fell some 20 feet off an overpass, and the trucker was killed.

The trucker’s family filed suit against the motorist and Volvo in the District Court of Johnson County, asserting claims for design defect, marketing defect, negligence, and gross negligence. Volvo moved to designate the truck driver’s employer as a “responsible third party” pursuant to Texas Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 33.004. The trial court initially granted the motion but later entered an order to the effect that the trucker’s employer was not a responsible third party. Volvo filed a petition for a writ of mandamus, seeking relief from the order.

Decision of the Tenth Court of Appeals for the State of Texas

The appellate court conditionally granted the writ of mandamus to Volvo. The evidence indicated that the tractor trailer in question was equipped with a Meritor WABCO anti-lock braking system. The plaintiffs alleged that Volvo was negligent in deleting an available electronic stability control (ESC) system from the truck and in not disclosing the importance of the ESC system to the trucker’s employer.

The court then determined that Volvo had provided sufficient evidence to raise a genuine issue of fact as to the employer’s responsibility regarding the lack of an ESC system in the truck. Thus, the court held that the trial court abused its discretion when it struck the designation of the employer as a responsible third party.

This was an unfortunate result for the trucker’s family. Under the Texas proportionate responsibility law, negligence can now be assigned to the employer, which – unlike Volvo – is likely immune from liability (other than death benefits payable under the applicable workers’ compensation law).

If You Have Questions About an East Texas Truck Wreck Lawsuit

Although the deceased trucker was the accident victim in this case, many truck crash cases involve serious injuries to innocent motorists who must share the road with big trucks. If you or a loved one has been hurt by a negligent trucker or trucking company, an East Texas truck accident lawyer at Earl Drott, P.C. can help you assert your legal right to compensation. Call us at (903) 531-9300 to set up a free consultation. We represent clients in Tyler, Smith County, and the surrounding areas.

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