Texas Appeals Court Holds that Separate Governmental Tort Liability Limits Applied to Multiple Defendants – Rodriguez v. Fort Worth Transportation Authority

city bus

In some ways, litigating a negligence claim is similar to completing a puzzle. First, it is necessary to fill in the basic elements of negligence:  duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages. For the most basic of claims, only these four “corner” pieces of the puzzle are necessary.

Unfortunately, there are very few “basic” claims. Most cases involve many other pieces, with issues such as insurance coverage, uninsured/underinsured motorist claims, contributory negligence or comparative fault, and sovereign immunity often being part of the puzzle.

Each of these pieces can affect the amount of compensation that the plaintiff ultimately receives – and, sometimes, whether he or she receives anything at all.

Facts of the Case

The case of Rodriguez v. Fort Worth Transportation Authority was the consolidated appeal of two cases arising from the death of a woman who was struck and killed by a bus. Since the woman was on the job at the time of the accident, her workers’ compensation carrier paid death benefits to her family. Both the woman’s daughter and the workers’ compensation carrier filed claims against the bus driver and the transit authority. The daughter’s claim sounded in wrongful death, while the carrier sought subrogation for negligent entrustment and respondeat superior.

After various procedural maneuvers by the parties, the trial court ultimately granted summary judgment to the transit authority, holding that the daughter’s claim should be dismissed based on Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 101.106(b) and that her total cumulative recovery against all of the defendants could not exceed $100,000 under the Texas Tort Claims Act.

Decision of the Court of Appeals for the Second District of Texas

The appellate court reversed the trial court’s judgment and rendered a declaratory judgment that the governmental tort liability limits applicable to the various defendants applied separately to each defendant and that the potential liability of the bus driver was not capped under the Act.

In so holding, the court rejected the defendants’ argument that the various wrongful death claims asserted in the court below were all derivative and that all of the damages that were sought in such claims constituted a “single claim.” Instead, the court found that, when a plaintiff sued multiple entities that each had its liability limited by the Act, the plaintiff could recover separately from each defendant up to the amount of the cap that applied to each respective entity.

To Get Advice About an East Texas Wreck Case

If you or a person in your family has been the victim of a negligent driver, you need to understand your legal rights. For a free case consultation with an experienced east Texas car accident and wrongful death attorney, call Attorney Earl Drott, P.C. at (903) 531-9300. We serve clients throughout east Texas, including in Tyler and Smith County. We do not charge a legal fee unless and until your case is successfully resolved, so there is no reason to delay in retaining counsel to represent you in your claim.

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