Texas Court Affirms $916,262 Judgment Against Negligent Trucker’s Statutory Employer – Ten Hagen Excavating, Inc. v. Lopez

tractor trailersIn lawsuits involving tractor-trailer accidents, it is often to the plaintiff’s advantage to name as many potential defendants as possible, including the owner of the truck and the truck driver’s employer, if they are different entities. This is because the doctrine of vicarious liability can serve to hold not only a negligent driver but also his or her employer legally liable for damages resulting from the driver’s breach of the duty of care.

Of course, disputes can and often do arise concerning whether or not a given trucking outfit is a statutory employer under state and federal law.

Facts of the Case

In the case of Ten Hagen Excavating, Inc. v. Lopez, the plaintiffs were involved in a traffic accident on Interstate 30 in November 2010. After a week-long trial, the jury determined that the defendant was vicariously liable for the negligence of the driver who caused the accident. The trial court rendered judgment against both the driver and the defendant, jointly and severally, for $916,262.

The defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court’s judgment should be reversed and that a take-nothing judgment should be entered against the plaintiffs.

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

The defendant argued that it was not vicariously liable for the driver’s negligence because it was not the driver’s “statutory employer” and that, even if it were the statutory employer, it was still not liable because the driver was not acting in the scope of his employment at the time of the wreck. The defendant also argued that certain objective, physical evidence proved that the driver’s negligence was not the cause of the accident, that the evidence was legally insufficient to support the trial court’s findings as to damages, and that the trial court committed reversible error in excluding the testimony of a rebuttal medical expert.

The appellate court rejected all of the defendant’s arguments and affirmed the trial court’s judgment in the plaintiffs’ favor. In so holding, the court noted that it was undisputed at trial that the defendant’s name and motor carrier number were on the tractor involved in the accident. Despite the defendant’s argument that there was an independent contractor arrangement between the driver and it, the court found that the trial court had correctly identified the defendant as the “statutory employer” under federal and state safety regulations pertaining to motor carrier liability.

To Get Assistance With Your East Texas Car Crash Case

If you have been injured in a serious truck accident, you may be entitled to substantial money damages to compensate you for your lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other losses. Experienced east Texas truck accident attorney Earl Drott has been helping injured east Texans seek maximum compensation for injuries suffered due to others’ negligence for three decades. To schedule a free consultation regarding your case, call us at (903) 531-9300. We represent clients throughout Tyler, Smith County, and east Texas.

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